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NYCC Encores! Gleefully Dances Out Call Me Madam

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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.

THE ENSEMBLE

FLORRIE BAGEL, DANIEL BERRYMAN, TAELER ELYSE CYRUS, LESLIE FLESNER,
TA’NIKA GIBSON, CHRISTOPHER GURR, LEAH HOROWITZ, JAVIER IGNACIO,
MAX KUMANGAI, MATT LOEHR, SKYE MATTOX, BRANDT MARTINEZ,
TIMOTHY MCDEVITT, HARRIS MILGRIM, BETHANY MOORE, MARY PAGE NANCE,
ROBBIE ROBY, KATHY VOYTKO, SUMI YU, RICARDO A. ZAYAS

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

THE ORCHESTRA

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 NYCityCenter.org, call CityTix at 212.581.1212,
or visit the New York City Center Box Office at 131 W 55th St

For more, go to frontmezzjunkies.com

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Broadway

Theatre News: Teeth, Soft Power, Redwood, BOOP! The Betty Boop Musical and Pre-Existing Condition

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Jenna Rose Husli, Wren Rivera, Alyse Alan Louis, Phoenix Best and Helen J Shen in Teeth (Photo: Chelcie Parry)

Teeth is coming back to New World Stages in the fall for an open-ended run. The transfer begins on October 31, Halloween night, as its official opening. While casting for the commercial remount is yet to be announced, the Playwrights Horizons cast featured Alyse Alan Louis, Steven Pasquale, Will Connolly, Jason Gotay, Jared Loftin, Courtney Bassett, Phoenix Best, Jenna Rose Husli, Lexi Rhoades, Wren Riveras and Helen J. Shen.

The off-Broadway cast album for Teeth, written by written by Pop! creator Anna K. Jacobs (book and music) and Pulitzer Prize-winning A Strange Loop creator Michael R. Jackson (book and lyrics), is now available to stream on all major music platforms. The physical CD will be released August 30. Teeth opened its off-Broadway world premiere at Playwrights Horizons in March with direction by Sarah Benson and choreography by Raja Feather Kelly.

Based on Mitchell Lichtenstein’s screenplay for the cult-classic 2007 horror comedy, Teeth is a tale of revenge and transformation that tears through a culture of shame and repressed desire one delightfully unhinged song at a time. The musical follows Dawn O’Keefe, an evangelical Christian teen struggling to be an exemplar of purity amongst her community of fellow Promise Keeper Girls. As Dawn’s desires become tested and twisted by the men in her life, she discovers a deadly secret not even she understands: when men violate her, her body bites back—literally.

I loved Jeanine Tesori and David Henry Hwang’s SoftPower when it appeared at The Public, now it’s coming to the Signature Theatre in Washington  D.C., newly revised production and directed by Signature Associate Artistic Director Ethan Heard. The show opens August 6 and runs until September 15. Could NYC be next? The cast will feature Steven Eng as DHH, Daniel May (Flower Drum Song) as Xue Xing, and Grace Yoo (Hadestown) as Hillary Clinton with Eymard Cabling (Miss Saigon national tour) as Randy Ray and others, Andrew Cristi (A Christmas Story) as Chief Justice and others, Jonny Lee Jr. as Bobby Bob and others, Quynh-My Luu as Waiter and others, Christopher Mueller as VEEP and others, Ashley D. Nguyen as Jīng and others, Chani Wereley as Betsy Ross and others, Nicholas Yenson as Holden Caulfield and others, and Sumié Yotsukura as Flight Attendant and others. Olivia Clavel-Davis, Brian Dauglash, Emily Song Tyler, and Joey Urgino are swings.

After the 2016 election, when a Chinese American playwright is attacked by an unknown assailant, he hallucinates a Golden Age musical comedy about a Chinese theater producer and Hillary Clinton falling in love. Hilarious and biting, this political satire dares to ask: Does American Democracy still work? And is it worth believing in?

An exhilarating ride through political absurdity with a faceoff between Chinese and American exceptionalism, Soft Power makes an electric debut in the nation’s capital.

Idina Menzel, will open at the Nederlander Theatre in Redwood. This new Broadway musical starts previews January 24,  with a February 13 opening. Written and directed by Tony Award nominee Tina Landau, Redwood features music by Kate Diaz and lyrics by Diaz and Landau. The show is conceived by Landau and Menzel, with additional contributions by Menzel. The musical premiered earlier this year at La Jolla Playhouse. “I made my Broadway debut at the Nederlander Theatre in Rent almost 30 years ago, so to be returning there with Redwood is very emotional for me as it feels like a real homecoming. It has been such a gift to collaborate with Tina and Kate on this show, and I’m so proud to bring it to Broadway” stated Menzel. Redwood follows Jesse (Menzel), a successful businesswoman, mother and wife who seems to have it all, but inside, her heart is broken. Finding herself at a turning point, Jesse leaves everyone and everything behind, gets in her car and drives. Thousands of miles later, she hits the majestic forests of Northern California, where a chance meeting and a leap of faith change her life forever.

BOOP! The Betty Boop Musical has found is set to open at Broadway’s Broadhurst Theatre on April 5, 2025. Tony Award®-winning director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell brings the Queen of the Animated Screen to the theater  with celebrated multiple Grammy® Award-winning composer David Foster, Tony Award®-nominated lyricist Susan Birkenhead and Tony Award®-winning book writer Bob Martin. This score is fabulous and we can’t wait to hear the rest of it.

Edie Falco Photo by Emilio Madrid

Today, producers O’Henry Productions, The Cohn Sisters, Jessica Chase, Taylor Williams, David Blum, Jesse Eisenberg and Charlie Kaufman announced that Pre-Existing Condition by Tony Award® nominee Marin Ireland will extend for two weeks through August 17 and will star Emmy Award® winner Edie Falco in the rotating role of “A” beginning on August 6

Pre-Existing Condition, directed by Maria Dizzia, is currently playing at the Connelly Theater (220 East 4th St.) in the intimate 60-seat Upstairs space. The play was originally set to close on August 3.

Pre-Existing Condition is a play exploring the challenges, shared community, and everyday indignities of learning to move forward after a life-altering, harmful relationship.

About the play, Ms. Falco said, “I am thrilled at the opportunity to be a part of something that moved me so much as a spectator. It involves an intimacy and vulnerability that I’ve sorely missed in the theater. I can’t wait to work with these people who I deeply respect so that hopefully more people can see and feel what I did when I saw the play.”

The role of “A” has rotated throughout the production and is currently played by Tony Award® winner Deirdre O’Connell (Dana H.). Tavi Gevinson (“American Horror Story”) will play the role from July 24-August 3 with Ms. Falco starting August 6-August 17. Previously, the role was played by Emmy Award® winner Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”), Julia Chan (Uncle Vanya) and Tony Award® nominee Maria Dizzia (In the Next Room).

The cast also includes Sarah Steele (“The Good Fight”), Dael Orlandersmith (Pulitzer Prize Finalist, Yellowman), Greg Keller (Alliance); with Raquel Chavez (Uncle Vanya) and Gregory Connors (The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window), understudies.

Tony Award® nominee Anne Kauffman (Mary Jane) serves as Creative Consultant on the production. In addition to Ms. Kauffman, the creative team includes Louisa Thompson (A Simulacrum), Set Designer; Tony Award® nominee Enver Chakartash (Stereophonic), Costume Designer; Tony Award® nominee Isabella Byrd (Enemy of the People, Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club), Lighting Designer; Tony Award® nominee Palmer Hefferan (The Skin of Our Teeth), Sound Designer. Taylor Williams is Casting Director, Ashley-Rose Galligan is Production Stage Manager, Eric Nolan Mattingly is Assistant Stage Manager with Wagner Johnson Productions serving as General Management.  Associate Producer is Joe Meyer. David Manella at Loeb & Loeb LLP serves as Production Counsel.

For information on performance dates, ticketing lottery information please visit preexistingconditionplay.com. Tickets start at $49.

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Off Broadway

Coney Island Nursery Rhyme Is a New Play Still In Its Embronic State

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In the press release and on their own site Coney Island Nursery Rhyme sounds so intriguing. This historical fiction set in Connecticut and New York in the 1930’s is based on a true story. They state; Follows the esteemed incubator-doctor, showman, and unofficial father of Neonatology, Martin A. Couney. In a time where eugenics-focused medical culture refused to employ incubator technology. Martin A. Couney took it upon himself to save premature babies in his own incubators at a sideshow at Coney Island where funds were used to hire nurses and essentially create an unofficial hospital. We focus on Beatrice Winthrop, a woman from the American gentry who seeks Couney’s assistance after giving birth prematurely.

This is what we are told, but what the play is about, is less about the doctor and more about Raymond Abbot (Zachary Speigel) a fool who has a secret to confess. His friend Beatrice Winthrop (Jessica Noboa) has had a premie and her mother Candace Lahey (Phyllis Lindy) thinks the child would be better off dead. The doctor in charge (Judge Boothby) doesn’t hold out much hope and wants to send the child to Chicago. In the meantime Lt. Peter Petrovick (Pete Marzilli), wants to capture the killer of Mrs. Winthrop husband who was shot dead by his friend.

Jessica Noboa

The play by Lubomir Rzepka spends the first hour teaching us nothing about eugenics, making us wonder why we are here. We are introduced to Martin A. Couney (Mike Timoney), but Mrs. Winthrop dismisses him, until Raymond Abbot steals the child, saving the child’s life.

Mike Timoney, Jessica Noboa, Phyllis Lindy

Rzepka also directed the piece, but this was a mistake, as the actors for the most part scream for two hours.

Mike Timoney, Zachary Speigel

So little is spent on “The Infantorium”, in which visitors paid 25 cents to view prematurely born babies displayed in incubators. Thanks to Couney, who was one of the first advocates for premature babies, and his Infantoriums have become widely accredited with saving the lives of over 6,500 premature babies in the 30’s. Couney is additionally recognised as one of the first pioneers of neonatological technology. Now that is interesting.

Coney Island Nursery Rhyme: 754 9th Ave 4th floor (word of warning NO elevator). Premiering for 8 select shows July 12 through July 20th as an Equity Approved Showcase at the NuBox Theatre.

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Ken Fallin's Broadway

Ken Fallin’s Broadway:​ Inspired By True Events A New Play by Ryan Spahn

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Off-Broadway’s Out of the Box Theatrics is presenting Inspired By True Events, a new play by Ryan Spahn.

In the green room of a community theater in Rochester, the Uptown Players are getting ready to play to a full house after opening to rave reviews the night before. When their star actor arrives in a dangerously unhinged state, they must improvise on and off stage in ways they could not have imagined. By turns hilarious, harrowing, and horrifying, Inspired By True Events follows a tenacious group of show people who must determine at what cost the show must go on.

Inspired By True Events received development workshops with New York Stage & Film, Vineyard Theatre and EST.

Knud Adams is directing, and the cast will feature Lou Liberatore, Jack DiFalco, Mallory Portnoy, and Dana Scurlock. The play opens July 17 at 154 Christopher Street (formerly the New Ohio Theatre). The play was developed by Michael Urie.

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Obituaries

Saying Good Bye To Dr. Ruth

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“I was left with a feeling that because I was not killed by the Nazis — because I survived — I had an obligation to make a dent in the world,” Dr. Westheimer stated.

Becoming Dr. Ruth was a compelling play that chronicled the remarkable journey of Karola Siegel, who was best known as Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the iconic sex therapist. Dr. Ruth’s escape from the Nazis as a child, her time as a sniper in Jerusalem, and her courageous pursuit of success in America as a single mother, Becoming Dr. Ruth was and is about a triumphant spirit. On July 12, 2024 Dr. Ruth passed on at her home in Manhattan. She was 96.

Sex sells and Ruth Westheimer, a child survivor of the Holocaust who was a sex therapist knew that. At a time when the world didn’t talk about sex Dr Ruth’s frankness led to a long-running radio and television call-in shows. She was the go-to for tips on the art and science of lovemaking.

The sexual revolution that began in the 60’s but the world was still repressed on subjects like erectile dysfunction, masturbation, fantasies and orgasms.

Dr. Ruth was not the typical radio and TV personality, She stood at 4-foot-7, she was bedecked in pearls, and had a recognizable German-inflected voice.

Dr. Westheimer was over 50 when she debuted in 1980 on New York’s WYNY with “Sexually Speaking.” The radio program started out in 15-minute segments and was later syndicated and extended to two hours to accommodate those who were curious. There was also “Good Sex With Dr. Ruth Westheimer,” She was a frequent guest on late-night talk shows.

After surviving the Nazis, she went to Israel, where she joined the Haganah paramilitary group fighting for Jewish statehood (and where, she said, she lost her virginity in a hayloft). After that to France and to New York. As Dr. Westheimer she taught university courses in human sexuality before a producer at WYNY, an NBC affiliate, booked her for quarter-hour segment, first broadcast on Sundays after midnight. Within a year, she was on prime time at 10 p.m. to 11 p.m.

She wasn’t the first on-air therapist, but the most remembered.

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Off Broadway

The Journals of Adam and Eve The World’s First Love Story Starring Hal Linden and Marilu Henner

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photo by Paul Aphisit

“Some day we’ll look back on this and laugh.”

The Journals of Adam and Eve The World’s First Love Story starring Hal Linden and Marilu Henner is a master class in acting. Created by Emmy-winning comedy writer Ed Weinberger (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, The Cosby Show), the show is very reminiscent of Mark Twain’s The Diaries of Adam and Eve. Ultimately an endearing love story, the  show records the couple’s initial ambivalence to growth within themselves and in love.

Done like a reading, the actors are in black street clothes. They refer to their scripts from adjoining music stands. There is water on small tables and a chair for each.

Hal Linden and Marilu Henner are very amusing and powerful storytellers. Linden’s journey as Adam, starts off with “Much to my amazement, I was born a full-grown man,” to “It wasn’t the Garden of Eden. Not by a long shot.” We meet and see a man who is flawed, childlike in full blown ego to a man content with the journey. It is truly funny to see Mr. Linden recall his favorite herb. “A few swallows of the bud and I soon found myself wolfing down handfuls of figs drenched in honey and sprinkled with crunchy chili peppers. It also made me giggle when I counted my fingers.”

Henner commands the stage squeezing every laugh out of goading Adam, flirting in a way that is subtle and innocent. When he tries to rule over her she states; “Well, it just so happens that this living thing that ‘moveth’ is not one of your birds, fishes, or any other animal you have dominion over. So maybe you and this God ought to have another little talk about who is whoest and what is whateth.”

As the mysteries of life and love are explored desire, discoveries, temptation, lust, being the world’s first parents, joys, sorrows, separation and contentment in their twilight years all are explained and shown in a way that makes you think.

This thought-provoking comedy’s makes you wonder did we ever really know the first couple, that in a strange way has influenced all of our lives?

Amy Anders Corcoran’s direction is simple, yet effective and you will leave the theatre more satisfied than Adama dn Eve after they bit that apple.

The Journals of Adam and Eve: The Sheen Center, Loreto Theater, 18 Bleecker Street, until July 28th

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