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Off Broadway

NYCC Encores! Gleefully Dances Out Call Me Madam



Encores! latest, Call Me Madam is billed as a light political satire musical from the 1950’s, but it fits quite well in the landscape of modern America, where politicians, like Congressman Wilkins, delightfully portrayed with charm by the always delightful Adam Heller (Off-Broadway’s Popcorn Falls), proclaim their political affiliations, “I’m the Republican“, at every moment they can. But in this particularly agreeable, although not exactly politically correct musical that spoofs with a wink and smile; American politics, foreign policy, and the tendency for throwing millions of dollars to needy countries without much thought or concern, at least this Republican and his two charmingly friendly Democrats, Senator Gallagher, played sweetly by the brilliant Brad Oscar (Broadway’s Something Rotten!), and Senator Brockbank, played adorably by Stanley Wayne Mathis (Broadway’s Nice Work If You Can Get It), they easily can join together in a across the aisle soft-shoe song and dance, “They Like Ike” linking arms and tipping their hats most adorably to us all. It’s exactly what this light and warm musical does best, be charming and sweet, while giving us something to smile and hum about for days to come.

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Brad Oscar, Adam Heller, Stanley Wayne Mathis. Credit: Stephanie Berger.

It’s a delightfully old fashioned Irving Berlin (music and lyrics: Holiday Inn) musical, with a sweet natured book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse (The Sound of Music with a score by Rodgers& Hammerstein): people bypassing the difficulties of political dysfunction and non-alignment, and enjoying a few cocktails and smiles all together, occasionally participating in a friendly non-partisan “Washington Square Dance” party thrown by a socialite songstress. It’s pure heaven, and as the stunningly harmonious overture, delivered by Encores!Music Director Rob Berman (Broadway’s Tuck Everlasting) and the Encores! Orchestra with a musical perfection that would make my big band father smile with with pleasure, fills the beautiful New York City Center, where Encores! skillfully is bringing back Call Me Madam, to celebrate NYCC’s 75th Anniversary season reveling in the return to simpler times. This is by far not the greatest of musicals of its time period, especially when taking into account the stellar creative team behind it. When it first premiered back on October 12, 1950 at the Imperial Theatre, it did laid claim to a record advance sale of $2 million dollars and grossing over its run of 644 performances more than $4 million. This probably had more to do with its star, the power house legend herself, Ethel Merman, than its construction, although The New York Times thought it was one of Berlin’s “most enchanting scores” and the New York Post stated that Merman was “indescribably soul-satisfying“.  The show’s back story is absolutely charming though, as if it was pulled right out of an old fashioned musical itself. The book writer Lindsay, a man widely known to be very interested in Washington’s political maneuverings, had the idea, after watching American icon, Ethel Merman sunning herself beside a swimming pool, that a musical about society doyenne Perle Meste would be the perfect next vehicle for the Broadway legend. And even though she wasn’t convinced originally (she wanted to star in something far more serious), history tells a different story, and Call Me Madambecame another legendary Tony Award winning performance for the actress. But surprisingly, even after such a solid success on Broadway and many popular years on tour, Call Me Madam fell by the wayside, forgotten while other Berlin masterpieces continued to live on and on.

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Carmen Cusack, Carol Kane, Darrell Hammond, Lauren Worsham. Credit: Stephanie Berger.

In 1995, Encores!, as it embarked on its second season, felt that it needed a financial hit in order to secure its place in New York City’s theatrical landscape and keep the Encore ball rolling forward. It was decided, that 45 years after its debut, Encores! would open the 1995 Encores! season starring Tyne Daly, with the hope that the star would attract not only the critics, but the public’s theatrical dollars. It was a resounding success, and the current Encores! folk decided to bring back all the freshness and sassiness that resides so sweetly in this satire. And with the casting of the phenomenal Tony-nominee Carmen Cusack (Broadway’s Bright Star) as the charming and undeniably unrefined Sally Adams, the “chosen party giver”, dressed to perfection in gloriously curvy designs by costume designer, Jen Caprio (Broadway’s Falsettos, Off-Broadway’s Daniel’s Husband), it’s an undeniable old-fashioned Lichtenburg treat that shouldn’t be missed. Call Me Madam is joyful and fun and as directed with a skilled hand by Casey Hushion (currently resident/ associate director of Broadway’s Mean GirlsThe Prom), even with the slowness of Act One and repetitive nature of its numerous reprises, this old classic can’t be ignored. “Reprise“, I will say, could easily be the operative word for the writing style of this particular type of musicals, and Call Me Madam, like the other musicals of that era, utilizes the repeat button a few too many times, reminding me of the enjoyable but somewhat dusty South Pacific, and that too often reprised number, “Some Enchanted Evening“.

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Jason Gotay, Carmen Cusack,. Credit: Stephanie Berger.

Call Me Madam follows somewhat closely to the real life story and surprising rise of the larger than life Perle Mesta, who was gifted with the title of the Ambassador to Luxembourg; an appointment that was basically a political favor for the friendly, fun, and very wealthy socialite, but it was also pretty ground-breaking for any woman at this time in history. Putting aside the swampiness of the premise, the fictional Sally Adams, the centerpiece of this fabulous musical gem of a party, finds herself dancing off to the fictional country of Lichtenburg, mainly because of her ability to throw a great big fun party, totally showcased in the delicious opening number, “The Hostess with the Mostes’ On the Ball“; a catch phrase that lives on and on. As with most of this show, especially the joyful but silly “Something To Dance About” that kicks off the much better Act Two, some of the more lightweight songs, for the most part, are disposable. It’s almost distracting sometimes that a few of the songs remind us, just slightly, of other better numbers from other shows, but there are enough original slices of musical heaven to make it all worth while, even if you are constantly reminded of better shows from the 50’s like, The King and I, Carousel, and My Fair Lady.

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Carmen Cusack, Ben Davis. Credit: Stephanie Berger.

Joining Sally on the journey is the absolutely amazing and lovingly adorkable son of a Congressman, Kenneth Gibson, played to glorious perfection by the beautifully voiced Jason Gotay (Broadway’s Peter Parker in Spider- Man: Turn Off the Dark) [did I put enough positive descriptives there?], who knows far more about the country than the Ambassador ever intends to learn or understand (once again, put aside the questionable swampiness of that set-up). These two talented souls are the main reasons to see this enjoyable Encores! production. They are simply magnificent and completely engaging throughout, especially when they sing probably the most famously delightful song, “You’re Just In Love“. It’s by far the best moment of the night. It’s a stellar rendition of the song that Ethel Merman insisted on being written just so she had a chance to sing a duet with her fantastic co-star Russell Nype. It has been said that nightly encores (click here to hear them sing this lovely song) were demanded of Merman and Nype back in 1950, and it’s no wonder, the song is a standout, especially with Cusack and Gotay lending their wonderful and harmonious pipes to the number. Gotay dazzles, but not just here. His solo, “Once Upon A Time, Today” is just as beautifully as Cusack’s “The Best Thing For You” which she lovingly duets with the handsome and velvety voiced Ben Davis (Broadway’s 2003 Tony Honor for La bohème), the head politician in Lichtenburg, Cosmo Constantine. Their romance is delightful, quick and straight to the point, filling us up with its charming organic cheese, a speciality of Lichtenburg. He’s gloriously handsome even when belting out the innocuous and slight “Lichtenburg“, a song about women and exported cheese that dulls his rich vocals with its questionablely silly lyrics. Luckily for him and for us, he is given many more opportunities to show what a perfect foil he is for the sexy and exciting Cusack. And for that we are eternally grateful.

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Jason Gotay,  Lauren Worsham. Credit: Stephanie Berger.

Shining just as brightly is the perfectly hilarious and stunningly voiced Lauren Worsham (NYCC Gala’s Sunday in the Park with George) as the sweet and timid Princess Maria, daughter to the Grand Duke Otto (the very funny Darrell Hammond) and the Grand Duchess Sophie (the absolutely brilliant Carol Kane). Her pair as royal parents are brilliantly funny, but it is Worsham that enlivens the stage every time she steps out from the wings, even when performing the perfectly ridiculous song and dance number, “The Ocarina“. It’s hilariously silly but with the stunningly fun choreography by Denis Jones (Upcoming Broadway’s Tootsie, Encores!: Hey, Look Me Over!) and Worsham’s delivery, it wins us over with ease.  But it is in the more romantically charged moments, particularly the sweet and charming “It’s A Lovely Day Today” and the trepidatious manner of her vocals that engages us, and when she gets down on one knee, we can’t help but love her all the more.

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New York City Center Encores! Call Me Madam‘s ensemble.  Credit: Stephanie Berger.

Call Me Madam is as joyfully a night as you can hope for, honoring all that Encores! represents. On top of all the fun and witty merriment in Lichtenburg, we also are given the treat of seeing video sensation Randy Rainbow ham it up in his signature pink glasses as the Prime Minister of Lichtenburg, Sebastian Sebastian, as well as the sadly underused, Michael Benjamin Washington (2005 Broadway revival La Cage Aux Folles) as Pemberton Maxwell, a character who struggles at first against the unorthodox manner of Cusack’s Sally Adams, but is forced, as we all are, to succumb to her fabulousness. Both deliver exactly what is needed in these small roles, enhancing Call Me Madam with the exact right amount of humor and charm.

The complicated real life trouble that exists in politics presently when money and power collide is hard not to notice and wince, even when laughing at the smart jabs of being so happy “I should be investigated“, but with Call Me Madam, leave those real world troubles outside, and shake the hand of the opposing party with glee, as we happily square dance the night away chaperoned and hosted by the magnificent and magnanimous Carmen Cusack, a power house in her own right, who certainly knows how to throw a grand ol’ party. Here’s hoping you have an invite or a hot little ticket in your pocket.

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New York City Center presents Encores! production of Call Me Madam. Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin; Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse Featuring The Encores! Orchestra Encores! Artistic Director Jack Viertel Encores! Music Director Rob Berman Directed by Casey Hushion Choreography by Denis Jones Starring Carmen Cusack (center) with Ben Davis, Jason Gotay, Darrell Hammond, Adam Heller, Carol Kane, Stanley Wayne Mathis, Brad Oscar, Randy Rainbow, Michael Benjamin Washington, and Lauren Worsham. Credit: Stephanie Berger.



Carmen Cusack and Randy Rainbow
Carmen Cusack, Randy Rainbow. Credit: Stephanie Berger.


Music Director and Conductor: Rob Berman

Associate Music Director and Choral Preparation: Ben Whiteley

Violins: Suzanne Ornstein, Belinda Whitney, Mineko Yajima, Maura Giannini, Laura Seaton-Finn, Christoph Franzgrote, Lisa Matricardi, Kristina Musser, Lorra Bayliss; Violas: David Blinn, Shelley Holland Moritz, Carla Fabiani; Celli: Katherine Cherbas, Deborah Assael-Migliore; Bass: Richard Sarpola; Woodwinds: Steve Kenyon, Lino Gomez, David Young, Todd Groves, John Winder; French Horn: Zohar Schondorf; Trumpets:Don Downs, Glenn Drewes, Wayne du Maine; Trombones: Bruce Bonvissuto, Randy Andos; Drums/Percussion: Eric Poland; Guitar; Jay Berliner; Piano: David Gursky.

To secure your seats, please visit, call CityTix at 212.581.1212,
or visit the New York City Center Box Office at 131 W 55th St

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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 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

Off Broadway

Vineyard’s “Scene Partners” Gets Stuck Between Floors




This is exactly how it happened “ we are told, followed by a big wide screen opening that descends upon us, but it does not quite land where it, and our leading lady’s character, most likely intended it too. Finally escaping the 11th floor on a folding chair and faulty pulley system, Meryl Kowalski, as portrayed as only the magnificently gifted Dianne Wiest (Broadway’s All My Sons; “Purple Rose of Cairo“) could, finds flight and falter inside this fascinating exploration of some sort of demented dream. Giving the “correct response“ to abstract questions and assignments, Wiest delivers a befuddled and determined performance that elevates a play that fractures realities every chance it gets. As written with a wild wandering spirit by John J. Caswell, JR. (Wet Brain), the play is an absurdity of utter invigorating complexity, playing with and sometimes delivering itself forward in a fascinating but distancing dementia. Is it a post-traumatic disassociation of epic proportions or a fractured descent into grief and mental illness, played for a laugh or a tug at the heart? Or is it something quite else that was lost on this avid fan of this Oscar-winning actress? And I don’t even know if there is a clear correct answer to this. But that is half the fun in this half-fun exercise in abstractionism and determination.

It’s big on ‘concept’, directed with a strong forward vision by Rachel Chavkin (Broadway’s Hadestown), obviously enjoying the ride and the wandering with glee. The visuals ride and slide in and about, thanks to the incredibly detailed and smooth work of video and projection design by David Bengali (Broadway’s The Thanksgiving Play), lighting designer Alan C. Edwards (Vineyard’s Harry Clarke), and scenic designer Riccardo Hernández (Broadway’s Indecent), giving depth and clarity to this otherwise meander into fractured and fantastical thinking. Supported by clever extravagances by costume designer Brenda Abbandandolo (Broadway’s The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window), the effect is a fevered dive into the mind of a woman beaten down hard to the ground by a now-dead husband whose death has freed her to her desire; her dream and determination to be a big famous movie star, and she’ll point the barrel at anyone who might stand in her way or say otherwise.

Josh Hamilton and Dianne Wiest in Vineyard Theatre’s Scene Partners. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Scene Partners feels anything but safe and secure, as we join Wiest’s 75-year-old widow from the Midwest as she steadily abandons her needy mess of a daughter, played with clever calculations by Kristen Sieh (Broadway’s The Band’s Visit), to jet, train, or sled herself off to Hollywood to become a big gloriously famous movie star even before her now-dead violent abusive husband has been buried six feet under. The framing is slanted, with efforts to keep us off balance. Finding a flavor in its madness and splitting. The name of Wiest’s woman is Meryl Kowalski, and she’s not to be ignored. She is told quite clearly and quickly that she must change it if she really wants to be an actress, as that first name of hers has already been taken by that other, already famous and award-winning actress with the same first name that we all know and love. But this Meryl holds firm, inside and out of her first acting class somewhere out there in Los Angeles. It’s there, when confronted by her over-the-top acting teacher, played with wild abandonment by the perfect Josh Hamilton (Broadway’s The Real Thing), that she reveals another level of strong abstractionism. This particularly twisted Meryl’s dead husband was named Stanley Kowalski, and her Streetcar husband made Tennessee Williams’s character seem like quite the gentle nice guy.

At this point, the play stands shakily in some abstract parallels that are fun, clever, complicated, and a bit distancing, playing with fragments of trauma and grief that don’t fully come together. It pulls and pushes at about the same level of conflicted engagement, until Johanna Day (Broadway/MTC’s How I Learned to Drive) as Meryl’s half-sister comes into play, shifting the formula with a centered grounding that makes us sit back and question what’s really going on. When a doctor also enters the picture, played well by Eric Berryman (RT’s Primary Trust), a medical diagnosis once again adds a different framework that could alter the whole process. Where are we with these two half-sisters and their shared knowledge of a non-collaborated trauma of abuse? Especially after a (pre-recorded) interview with a very well-positioned Sieh asking pertinent questions that illicit praise from Hamilton’s pompous character and a disappearing act of a half-sister who might never been. It plays with the head, in both an engaging and disassociating manner that works, and doesn’t.

Johanna Day and Dianne Wiest in Vineyard Theatre’s Scene Partners. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Scene Partners doesn’t play easy with our unpacking, leading us down blind endless alleyways decorated with an abundance of movie imagery that either leads us to brick walls or bottomless pits to fall into. Wiest’s Meryl has necessarily immersed herself in these vintage cinematic panoramas, probably to unconsciously avoid the abusive reality she found herself trapped in, and in that trauma response, Wiest has found the perfect embodiment for Mrs. Kowalski, bringing feisty and forceful complexities to the forefront as she shuffles and stabs herself into frame. And even if it doesn’t, in the end, add up to much, this Vineyard Theatre production is flavorful in its twisted construction and projections. The “Doctor Zhivago” impressions and pop-culture references overwhelm, not just our heroine, but also our connections to emotional clarity and authenticity, leaving us hanging halfway down and in between floors waiting for something to fully make an impact.

Dianne Wiest in Vineyard Theatre’s Scene Partners. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

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Off Broadway

Make Me Gorgeous Tells Of One Man’s Authenticity



Make Me Gorgeous! playing at Playhouse 46 in a nut shell is about the life and times of LGBTQ+ trailblazer Kenneth Marlow. Embodying Marlow is Wade McCollum, who tells us how he was born in 1926 in Des Moines, Iowa, and how he became a hustler, private hairdresser, stripped in mob-controlled nightclubs, became a female impersonator, a madam of a gay prostitution ring, until in the 70’s when he became Kate, throwing a “Ball to End all Balls” to fund gender-affirming surgery. We learn how she documented her life in books. In between he was a private in the U.S. Army; a Christian missionary; a mortuary cosmetologist and a newspaper columnist.

Wade McCollum Photo: Maria Baranova

In a sense Marlow was raised to be who he was dressed in girls clothes as a child, then became drawn to feminine clothes and his female relatives encouraged him. In high school he ran around in drag. in Iowa in the 30’s took some kind of guts. His father never showed him love and left, his mother was a raging alcoholic. He took to the cinemas populated by men to find what was missing in life, then to the church. When he is shipped off to California, he meets and hangs out with the transgender prostitutes finding feeling at home. He ends up with a sugar daddy who is unattractive, ends up in Chicago, ends up as a hairdresser and then a stripper in Calumet City as “Mr. Keni Marlo, Exotic Queen of the Boys” and that takes us to the 40’s.

Wade McCollum Photo: Maria Baranova

In the end he ended up becoming the hairstylist to Phyllis Diller, Lucille Ball, and Gypsy Rose Lee, among others. His side job need up being documented in Mr. Madam: Confessions of a Male Madam, Cathouse Mother, Male Oral Love, and Around the World with Kenneth Marlowe.

Wade McCollum Photo: Maria Baranova

I have loved McCollum’s work ever since Ernest Shackleton Loves Me. This man is a consummate actor, whose rich voice and glamours gams make him perfect to tell this story. He brings everyone he is talking about to life. You feel as if you know each character. McCollum’ has oodles of charisma, so the tawdry tale he is telling comes off less crass. With lines like “I liked that men paid to have sex with me. And those who appealed to me usually didn’t have any money…so I did a lotta pro-bono work” if you are not exactly open this may not appeal to you. A couple walked out the night I went. McCollum is a natural with Sally Rand’s Fan Dance and glorious performing a song Marlow wrote with jazz pianist Reggie DuValle. The most pignut part of the story comes when he is drafted and is raped by 14 men. There is however a disconnect as on a book cover he wrote “He was raped by fourteen men in his barracks — and enjoyed it!”

Wade McCollum Photo: Maria Baranova

The theater is styled like a cabaret, with velvet curtains and bistro tables. Black and white photographs of drag queens hang on the walls. On the stage Walt Spangler’s set looks like a cross between Barbie’s house and cotton candyI really want the black dress designed by Jeffrey Hinshaw and the lighting by Jamie Roderick’s and sound by Ien DeNio’s really help to enjoy the evening

Wade McCollum Photo: Maria Baranova

Smartly directed and written by Donald Horn, I was on the edge of my seat the whole performance and definitely learned a thing or two or three about this culture.

Make Me Gorgeous! Playhouse 46, 308 W 46th Street, through Dec. 31st.

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Here We Are Or The Search For The Meaning of Life



Let me just state that I love the Stephen Sondheim/David Ives musical/play Here We Are. It’s as if the genius, known as Sondheim was trying to resolve his life. The first act is cynical and the characters are hypocritical, while the second act is about coming to with grips with life’s choices and surrendering to the inevitable.

Micaela Diamond, Amber Gray, Steven Pasquale, Bobby Cannavale, Rachel Bay Jones and Jeremy Shamos Photo by Emilio Madrid

The music is like playing Sondheim jeopardy. His motif’s from other shows are blended into new songs that make you want to have a pen and paper to play the game. I can’t wait until the CD comes out. I’ve been told that it is being recorded in January.

The cast and Rachel Bay Jones Photo by Emilio Madrid

The show is highly surreal, with life’s journeyIn question. Think “The Outer Limits” or “The Twilight Zone,” very Rod Serling.

Jeremy Shamos, Tracie Bennett, Amber Gray Photo by Emilio Madrid

Based on two Luis Buñuel films “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” (1972) and “The Exterminating Angel” (1962). Act one has Leo Brink (Bobby Cannavale) a entitled tycoon whose opinion is the only one that matters, his wife Marianne (Rachel Bay Jones) who lives for beauty and is a bit on the vaped side, their friends Paul Zimmer (Jeremy Shamos), a plastic surgeon celebrating his 1,000th nose job, his wife, Claudia (Amber Gray), an agent who lives for the celebrity of it all, Raffael Santello Di Santicci (Steven Pasquale), an ambassador from  Moranda who lives for the number of notches on his belt and Fritz (Micaela Diamond), Marianne’s younger sister, who wants a revolution, while also wanting to live the good life, searching for brunch. It turns out Leo, Paul and Raffael run a drug cartel. As the day goes down the hill Marianne keeps asking Leo to “buy this perfect day for her.”

Amber Gray, Jeremy Shamos, David Hyde Pierce, Bobby Cannavale, Steven Pasquale Photo by Emilio Madrid

Act two is a little more dark. While they finally find food,  the consequences of their choices keeps them trapped in purgatory. Enter a colonel (Francois Battiste) whose parents were killed for $26.15, a soldier (Jin Ha) who has feelings for Fritz due to his dreams and a bishop (David Hyde Pierce) who wants another job, has a shoe fettish, and plays piano, until there is no more music. This act is very reminiscent of Steambath. I love the homage to “The World According to Garp” and the bear.

Jin Ha, Micaela Diamond Photo by Emilio Madrid

Playing butlers and maids and assorted restaurateur’sare the incredible Tracie Bennett and Denis O’Hare. Kudos has to go out to the wigs by Robert Pickens and Katie Gell and the neon various establishments. white box set and costumes by David Zinn.

Jeremy Shamos, Amber Gray, Bobby Cannavale, Denis O’Hare, Rachel Bay Jones, Steven Pasquale, Micaela Diamond Photo by Emilio Madrid

Joe Mantello’s staging is exquisite, allowing for each of these brilliantly talented performers to take center stage. This is true ensemble acting and I hope when the Drama Desk is giving out awards this wins.

Where many have criticized the lack of music in the second act, it makes perfect sense. The music stops. The concept very much reminds me of Davids Cromer’s Our Town, when Emily dies and suddenly things are in color and have smells. It makes complete sense that once you are trapped the music would die.

Natasha Katz’s lighting really helps the shinny set take shape, Tom Gibbons’s sound makes the inner world come to life and Sam Pinkleton’s choreography is just enough to make this move seamlessly.

Alexander Gemignani, and Jonathan Tunick, make Sondheim’s music an art and I for one appreciate the subtlety and musicality. Many may not know that Sondheim was a game master and in this it is like he won the final game of “putting it together”.

Here We Are, is intelligent, witty with so much to say and if you ponder the meaning of life you to will walk away extremely fulfilled.

Here We Are, The Shed, 545 West 30th through January 21st

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Off Broadway

Jerusalem Syndrome at Off-Broadway’s York Theatre Company



The Jerusalem Syndrome is a real psychological phenomenon that affects approximately 200 tourists per year who visit Israel. They come to believe that they are iconic figures from the Old and New Testaments.

Just in time for Chanukah is The York Theatre Company’s world-premiere musical  The Jerusalem Syndrome. The book and lyrics are by Laurence Holzman and Felicia Needleman, with music by Kyle Rosen.

Farah Alvin. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

The show follows Phyllis/Sarah (Farah Alvin) who is hoping this trip will reunite her and her cell phone workaholic husband Alan. In the opening number “El-Al Flight,” we also meet an awkward rookie tour guide Eddie Schlosser (Chandler Sinks), whose alter ego becomes Moses, gay resort tycoon and furniture designer Charles Jackson, who takes on Jesus. Mickey Rose (James D. Gish) is the hunky and vain daytime actor who becomes Abraham. There is also a barbie-esq nurse Rena (Laura Woyasz,) who falls for Rose and sings an energetic number called “Room Seventeen.”

Alan H. Green. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

The standouts are Ms. Alvin who has always been a talent with her fabulous vocals and comedic touches, which show her vulnerability at the core. Mr Green who knocks it out of the park and Gish, who I expect will be able to propel this role into more.

The cast also consists of Dana Costello, Danielle Lee James, John Jellison, Karen Murphy, Jeffrey Schecter, Jennifer Smith, Curtis Wiley and Lenny Wolpe.

Directed by Don Stephenson and choreography by Alex Sanchez, this show moves at a nice pace.

Chandler Sinks and Company Photo by Carol Rosegg.

The six-piece orchestra (Aveion Walker, Sean Decker, Kate Amrine, Jessica Gehring and Nicholas Urbanic under musical conductor and keyboardist Miles Plant, bring the music to life. Memorable songs include “The Power of Israel, ” “I’m Sorry,” “Doing It,” “Is It Crazy?” and “Daddy Loved Jesus.”

James Morgan’s set, Caite Hevner ‘s projections, Fan Zhang’s costumes, sound by Josh Liebert and and Rob Denton’s lighting all service the show.

The Jerusalem Syndrome, is a show that should uplift you for a pleasant night out.

The Jerusalem Syndrome: York Theatre Company, Theatre at St. Jean’s, 150 East 76th Street, until December 31st

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Off Broadway

‘Til Death in Need of a Epitaph



It is so obvious Elizabeth Coplan’s ’Til Death, being presented by the Abingdon Theatre Company on Theatre Row is a vanity production by Ms. Coplan. Sadly the play stars Judy Kaye and Robert Cuccioli, who are saddled with this bitter melodrama.

Whitney Morse, Dominick LaRuffa Jr., Amy Hargreaves photo by Julieta Cervantes

The plays about death follows a well off Mary (Judy Kaye), who is dying from ovarian cancer, and wants to end it all. She is married to her second husband, Michael (Robert Cuccioli), who her daughter Lucy (Amy Hargreaves), resents. Well actually, this rather miserable girl is none too happy about anything, as she takes her mothers pills, drinks and turns down offers for a better job by a prestigious law firm. Her hotshot lawyer brother Jason (Dominick LaRuffa Jr.), has set this up for her, but she’d rather stay put. The most redeeming part of Lucy is her teenage soccer star son, Nick (Michael Lee Brown). Telling the story is the stand in for Ms. Coplan, Anne (Whitney Morse), a photographer who was the black sheep of the family and my guess still is.

Anne and Michael do not want Mary to kill herself, however Lucy seems gung ho. During the course of this Michael is constantly reminded by Lucy that he is nothing and has no claims to the house, even as Mary is dying. Why he doesn’t slap her is beyond me. I wanted out of my seat to do just that.

This play is kept on life support for 75-minutes but seems more like an eternity with these rather nasty characters.

Kaye is warm but has very little to do. Cuccioli’s role requires him to deliver completely lame jokes while emasculating him, to boot. Hargreaves does well in the bitch role. LaRuffa Jr. has nothing to do nor does Morse or Brown. The “secrets” that disclosed, in this day and age are blah, blah, blah..

Chad Austin’s direction keeps this monstrosity going like the energizer bunny.

The most confusing part is Lisa Renkel’s projections, which appear to be Ms. Coplan’s photography of her family. They do not resemble one person on stage.

What is even more confusing, is why some playwrights insist on dragging their audiences through their therapy.

Til Death: Abingdon Theatre Company at Theatre Row , 401 West 42nd Street until December 23rd.

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