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The Mark Of Kane Strikes Hard at City Lit Theater

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Back in 1939, two young friends from high school in a small Brooklyn apartment put their talents together and created The Batman. One became rich and famous. The other died broke and alone. The tragic story behind this sad enigma is fascinatingly told in the engrossing new play, The Mark of Kane by Mark Pracht, now receiving a world premiere presentation at Chicago’s City Lit Theater.

Todd Wojcik and Annie Hogan in The Mark of Kane. Photo by Steve Graue

Since 1979, Artistic Director Terry McCabe has passionately nurtured literate new plays with his small, non-Equity theater company.  The Mark of Kane is yet more proof that theater is about the talented people who make it, and not about how much scenery you can move around or how much money you can throw at it. I enjoyed The Mark of Kane a heck of a lot more than the Spiderman musical.

Photo by Steve Graue

The Mark of Kane is the first of a three play series by Pracht called “The Four Color Trilogy” on major turning points in comic book history, to be presented over the next three years by City Lit Theater. On the basis of this impressive debut presentation, I  look forward to seeing the others.

Josh Zagoren, Todd Wojcik Photo by Steve Graue

Like most of my generation, I grew up on comic books. They both inspired me to dream of having powers that would let me rise above my pre-adolescent struggles, and taught me that just having super powers doesn’t always make your life go smoothly, either.

Back in 1939, Jerry Spiegel and Joe Schuster created Superman, and launched the tales of superheros whose pantheon has become our culture’s answer to Greek mythology. But nobody in the comic book world expected they were creating an art form that would dominate the modern zeitgeist eighty-three years later.

Expecting that least of all, perhaps, was Bob Kane, a very average illustrator who wanted to create a Supermancopy he could sell. When he learned of a chance to pitch a copycat hero, with red suit and blonde hair, for a spot in Detective Comics, Kane turned to his old high school classmate, Bill Finger, who was a lover of dark classic yarns by Poe, and contemporary pulps like The Shadow.

Although Kane had the name for the character and the publishing connection, it was Finger who really created the dark and mysterious figure of The Batman, and the stories that made him a comic book icon. They were supposed to have been equal partners The Batman’s creation. But when it came to Bob Kane’s business ethics, Finger should have reminded himself of The Shadow’s famous quote, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?”

The Mark of Kane is the story of how Kane built his career on the backs of others working for him, most of all Finger, while taking all the profit and credit for himself. The title of the play clearly riffs off the biblical story of Cain and Abel.  While Bob Kane didn’t literally strike his old friend dead, what he did to him was as good as murder.

Pracht, who is also a Jeff Award winning Chicago actor, brings a fine ear for dialogue and character to his story.  He does an excellent job laying out the various players in the history of early comics and the nature of that business, while holding our interest in the tragic arc of Finger and the apparent hero who became his nemesis.

As the self-absorbed, self-serving, ascot-wearing dandy, Bob Kane, Josh Zagoren is all clueless smarm. You just want to smack him, as you well should (and somebody finally does). He is, at times, as cartoony in the persona he created for himself as the one he drew. But it suits the man and the moment.

As the hapless Bill Finger, Todd Wojcik brings great warmth and sensitivity to every moment. We really feel for him as he descends from youthful optimism into the despair and alcoholism which eventually destroys him.

It’s hard to cast older, non-Equity character actors; but City Lit has found themselves a gaggle of good ones. Adam Bitterman as fellow DC Comics writer Arnold Drake, is a colorful, expressive personality, and the soul of the world around them. Other good work is done by Lee Kanne as Jerry Robinson (co-creator of Robin and the Joker for the Batman comics), David Valenta as Shelly Moldoff (co-creator of Batgirl and the super villains Poison Ivy and  Mr. Freeze), Michael  Sherwin as Jim Steranko, writer and artist of the Marvel Series Nick Fury: Agent of Shield, and Sean Harklerode and Linsey Falls as comic book executives.

Special praise goes to John Wehrman, who creates three stunningly different personae as Finger’s abusive father, the all-too-nice patriarch of Bob Kane’s family, and an all business, DC comic book executive.

Annie Hogan heart wrenchingly depicts Portia as she changes from girlish innocence and optimism to disappointment and bitterness over her husband’s refusal to fight for the credit that was rightfully his. Her beautiful, intimate work really illuminates the human core of the play.

Laura Coleman and Zoe Deprez play all the other women in the show with skill and sass. Dakota Pariset also does fine, subtle work as multiple younger male characters, most notably as the editor of a fanzine who finally gives Bill Finger his due.

The set and lights by G. “Max” Maxin IV are minimal, with a handful of furniture being scooted around and an upstage wall of projection screens doubling as doors. But this accommodates his wonderfully illustrative and evocative projections of comic book art and key visuals from illustration history. The dark music by Petter Wahlbeck always underscored the mood appropriately when used, although it could have been used even more.  Tony Donley also gets high marks for his poster and logo design, which brilliantly play off Kane’s distinctive comic book signature.

Producer/director Terry McCabe deserves ample credit for the careful development of this script. He also has done an excellent job guiding the nuanced performances of his well-chosen acting ensemble.

I was disappointed that there is no attempt in this production to age the performers or change their appearance across all the years the story covers, and no particular visual elements acknowledging the changes in style over time. The costumes by Rachel S. Parent, using clearly inappropriate, 1980’s double-breasted jackets for the 1940’s, and then largely ignoring the evolution of fashion which followed, contributed to the temporal confusion. The devil, as they say, is in the details.

The delicious chemistry between Zagoren and Wojcik always keeps us engaged in their story. But despite their individual talents, using the same actors in these roles over several decades, with no attempt to bridge the years with any aspect of their performances, makes them seem either too old or too young for their characters at either end of the story. At best, you will accept the emotional distancing this causes simply because you enjoy these two outstanding performances so much, and are busy contemplating their meaning intellectually. Brecht would have loved it.

As Finger gives up the fight to be acknowledged by history for his contribution to The Batman, the air of conflict gets let out of the story in the second act. Ultimately, Kane is allowed to shrug off what he has done to Finger without any fear of retribution. If Pracht’s fictionalized Kane were to express worry about that at any point in time, and have some self-awareness which haunts him, instead of just becoming increasingly smug and self-deluded, it might give the second act some much needed tension. As it is, the audience is unsure when to applaud in the end, as both the story and the staging end with a bit of a whimper.

It’s too bad, as I was told, that the production team didn’t even try to obtain the rights to depict The Batman himself onstage; because the spiritual shadow of The Batman looms large over the production at every moment.  How to depict that is, of course, a directorial choice.  In the end, I would have really liked to see the literal shadow of The Batman come for Kane himself.  I think something like that could have been done with projection, without any concern about copyright infringement. At least Kane could shrink from what he imagines to be the embodiment of his guilt. This Kane could use a touch of Macbeth in the end, cowering at the vengeful ghost of his own creation; or else, from his own personal Banquo in the form of Finger’s own shadow looming over him.  Regardless of how it is expressed, this production cries out for a final conceptual “button”.

A play with so much to offer, in a time when super heros are all the rage, is bound to have future productions where other embellishments may be possible. Even with that caveat, this production of The Mark of Kane is an auspicious debut, and a powerful, two-fisted tale for all audiences,  not just comic book fans.

The Mark of Kane by Mark Pracht plays at City Lit Theater, 1020 West Bryn Mawr in the Edgewater Prebyterian Church in  Chicago, Illinois, now through December 4. For tickets call 773-293-3682. www.citylit.org.

Jeffery Lyle Segal is a multifaceted theater artist who has worn many professional hats. He started as a musical theater performer in his teens. He attended Stanford U., Northwestern University, and SUNY at Binghamton to study acting, directing and dramatic literature. He also wrote theater reviews for The Stanford Daily and was Arts Editor of WNUR Radio at Northwestern. After college, he is proud to have been the first full time Executive Director of Chicago’s acclaimed Steppenwolf Theater Company. He left them to work as a theater actor and director. His special effects makeup skills got him into the movies, working on the seminal cult horror film, Re-Animator.He also did casting for several important Chicago projects, sometimes wearing both production hats, as he did on Chicago’s most famous independent movie, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. While living in Los Angeles, he joined the Academy for New Musical Theater, where he developed two book musicals as a composer, lyricist and librettist, Down to Earth Girl (formerly I Come for Love, NYMF 2008), and Scandalous Behavior! (York Developmental Reading Series 2010). He wrote, produced and performed his song “Forever Mine” as the end title theme of the horror film, Trapped! He also has written songs for his performances in cabaret over the years, and the time he spent pursuing country music in Nashville. Most recently he created a musical revue, Mating the Musical, for the Chicago Musical Theater Festival 2016. In NYC, he has attended the BMI musical theater writers’ workshop, and the Commercial Theater Institute 14 week producer program. He is currently creating a company to develop new musicals online. He still keeps up his makeup chops, working with top doctors in NYC and Chicago as one of the country’s most highly regarded permanent cosmetic artists (www.bestpermanentmakeup.com) and as a member of Chicago local IATSE 476. www.jefferylylesegal.com

Entertainment

New Jersey Hall of Fame Entertainment & Learning Center Opens at American Dream

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Dedicated to encouraging people to find their heroes and achieve their best, the New Jersey Hall of Fame unveiled its Entertainment and Learning Center today at American Dream before a crowd of supporters, inductees, and elected officials, including Governor Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy opened to the public on June 28th.

“We are incredibly excited that America’s first state-focused Entertainment and Learning Center will be right here in the Garden State,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “Located at American Dream, the space will embrace our rich history and celebrate the achievements of over 230 outstanding New Jerseyans. This Center will serve as a testament to our one-of-a-kind entertainment culture and supply knowledge and inspiration for generations to come.”

The 10,000-square-foot Entertainment and Learning Center, now the permanent home for New Jersey Hall of Fame inductees, boasts state-of-the-art exhibits. These include a simulated space ride called “Fly Me to the Moon,” where visitors can experience the thrill of space travel. For music enthusiasts, there’s a karaoke stage where they can sing alongside holograms of Tommy James, Gloria Gaynor, Wyclef Jean, Frankie Valli, and other musical legends. Also, for those interested in the arts, visitors can interview holograms of Tommy James, Danny DeVito, Jason Alexander, Connie Chung, Laurie Hernandez, and other notable Jersey greats in the “Late Night Jersey” Television Studio.

“Through education and entertainment, we are inspiring people to realize their dreams by becoming their best,” added Jon F. Hanson, Chairman of the New Jersey Hall of Fame. “So, there’s no better place to be than here at American Dream!”

“The State of New Jersey boasts a rich history full of iconic moments and legendary heroes, which will now be celebrated for the world to see at American Dream,” notes Don Ghermezian, CEO of American Dream. “We are excited to inspire our guests with leading entertainers, athletes, and influential individuals from the arts, education, science, and public service sectors at this one-of-a-kind Entertainment and Learning Center.”

Added President Steve Edwards, “The soul of the New Jersey Hall of Fame mission is based on the concept of Areté, Ancient Greek wisdom that means the act of actualizing one’s highest and best sense of self, with a moral excellence of character, and for the greater good. Our inductees have indeed realized their Areté, and are heroes who inspire others to do the same.”

The New Jersey Hall of Fame (NJHOF) honors citizens who have made invaluable contributions to society, the State of New Jersey, and the world beyond. Since 2008, the NJHOF has hosted 15 ceremonies for more than 230 notable individuals and groups in recognition of their induction into the Hall of Fame. The NJHOF endeavors to present school children with significant and impactful role models to show that they can, and should, strive for excellence. The NJHOF is thankful for the support of its many sponsors, including Hackensack Meridian Health, without which none of our endeavors would be possible.

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Family

Legal Insights – Exploring the Critical Aspects of Common Law Marriage!

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There is a common understanding that 50% of marriages fail, considering the divorce rate. However, the new statistics have something better to suggest. Canada witnessed a surge in divorce cases in 1968 after passing the Divorce Act. The latter phase of the 1980s pushed the divorce rate higher as the laws made it an easy option. However, the 1990s brought a new picture to everyone, reporting a decline in this area. It could be so because aging couples generally avoid this path compared to younger couples. But it doesn’t end there. The number of divorce cases has declined even among younger generations, per the reports. How is this happening? You can attribute this to the common-law marriage. About eight of ten young people aged 20 and 24 opted to live together without marrying.

Are you also planning to walk this path? Family lawyers Toronto strongly advises couples choosing to cohabit under a common-law relationship without tying the knot to get a cohabitation agreement done. This legal document guides both parties’ rights and duties if they split. It covers crucial aspects such as property division and spousal support. So, let’s delve into the nitty-gritty of common-law marriage for a better understanding and to help you feel more secure in your decision.

  • Overview of common-law marriage

When two people live together for at least three years, this signifies a permanent relationship. Even having a child means you are a common-law couple under the legal system. Nevertheless, it gets the legal status of common law only after the couple’s relationship lasts for three years. If you don’t meet this criterion, you are not a couple in the eyes of Canadian law. How does this relationship status differ from marriage? For clarity, consider the divorce process, tax filing, spousal support, property division, and other angles.

  • Common-law marriage vs. marriage

Under common-law marriage, each partner can file their tax independently, unlike married couples. While it’s a positive side, it deprives these couples from enjoying certain tax benefits accessed by married couples. Think of the Child Tax Credit, for instance. In the event of separation, married couples naturally enjoy equal rights over assets purchased during their married life. You must establish your right to get this protection under the common law. Likewise, you can expect spousal support after divorce only if you have made special legal provisions under the common law marriage. Otherwise, you may regret not consulting family lawyers in Toronto on time and not making the cohabitation agreement. It is also a glimpse that the divorce process for common-law couples can be complicated because of the absence of legal recognition. It makes safeguarding your interest challenging.

Nevertheless, common-law marriages among young couples are on the rise in Canada. This trend may also influence you to cohabit with your partner without a formal marriage. However, as you’ve seen, this kind of relationship also has some downsides. It’s more relevant for separating couples. If you want to make your relationship more sustainable or avoid the hassles during separation, get legal advice from an expert attorney in Toronto, Ontario. They can provide the best solutions, helping you feel more informed and prepared.

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Out of Town

Inside Bucks County Playhouse World Premiere Musical Last of the Red Hot Mamas

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From serving up jokes with a side of blintzes in a Hartford Jewish deli to performing for adoring crowds at Broadway’s Palace Theater in seven short years, the unexpected rise of Sophie Tucker to the rank of comic superstar is the subject of the new world premiere musical, Last of the Red Hot Mamas, making its debut at Bucks County Playhouse, June 28 through July 27. Last of the Red Hot Mamas will begin previews on Friday, June 28 with an official press opening on Thursday, July 11 at 7:30 pm.
T2C was there at the press meet and greet.
The Playhouse’s Producing Director Alexander Fraser, Executive Producer Robyn Goodman, and Producer Joshua Fiedler announced casting and details for this new musical, which features direction and choreography by Shea Sullivan, and a book by Susan Ecker, Harrison David Rivers and Lloyd Ecker.
Last of the Red Hot Mamas is the 11th world premiere production at the New Hope theater since it reopened in 2012 and is part of Playhouse’s commitment to developing new work.
“The big surprise for me was seeing how Sophie Tucker’s wild, racy and very funny take on life changed show business forever,” says Alexander Fraser, Producing Director. “Sophie Tucker made the world accept her for who she was . . . a full-figured Jewish girl with a voice as loud as a steam whistle. We’re proud to help shed light how she paved the way for all those to follow who felt like they didn’t fit in.”
In 1973, while they were students at Ithaca College, Susan Denner (now Ecker) and Lloyd Ecker went on a first date to a Bette Midler concert. The couple quickly fell in love—with both each other and the “Divine Miss M.” Midler’s hilarious ‘Soph’ jokes piqued their curiosity about their origin — the pioneering vaudeville performer Sophie Tucker — leading the duo to publish a fictional memoir, “I Am Sophie Tucker,” and create a well-regarded documentary, “The Outrageous Sophie Tucker.”  A big new musical is the next step in the Eckers’ 50-plus year fascination with the saucy, sassy comedienne — Sophie Tucker. To bring their dream to life, they joined forces with Sullivan, and award-winning playwright, Harrison David Rivers.
“Picture a groundbreaking, occasionally arrested for sexual innuendo, jazz-singing, 25-year-old very plump ‘Taylor Swift’ of 1913. Sophie Tucker was on the front pages every day, with men craving her and women copying her hair and fashion styles. We’re confident our must-see world premiere musical is going to make Tucker an international icon… again,” says Lloyd Ecker.
“We’re equally sure the innovative and exciting Bucks County Playhouse is about to become the place to be this July,” added Susan Ecker.
Before Mae West, Bette Midler or Queen Latifah, there was Sophie Tucker. With the help of two former Harlem headliners, Tucker rose from the deli counter to become a full-fledged star in her own right. Tucker was known for performing songs, including “After You’re Gone”, “There’ll Be Some Changes Made” and “Some of These Days.” The musical will feature these songs, along with other classics of their time — delivered with lots of tap dancing, and a big dose of Sophie’s groundbreaking, sassy humor.
Ryann Redmond (Broadway’s first female Olaf in Disney’s Frozen and most recently Once Upon a One More Time) will perform the role of Sophie Tucker alongside Rheaume Crenshaw (Broadway’s Shucked, Groundhog Day, Caroline or Change) as Mollie Elkins, DeWitt Fleming Jr. (Tour of A Wonderful World, and Encore’s The Tap Dance Kid) as Bojangles Robinson and Stephanie Gibson (BCP’s The Rocky Horror Show and National Pastime and Broadway’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as Nora Bayes.
The cast also includes Willie Clyde Beaton II (Walnut Street’s Beautiful: The Carole King Musical), Lincoln Belford (National Tour of Chicago), Natalie Bellamy (Playhouse debut), Kelly Bolick (Public Theater’s Southern Comfort), Jonathan Hadley (Broadway’s Jersey Boys), Jenny Kay Hoffman (National Tour: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer), Hannah Hubbard (Fulton Theater’s Something Rotten), Daniel Lopez (Into the Woods at the Hollywood Bowl), Bobby MacDonnell (currently in Boy Band Evolution), Michael Persson (National Tour: 42nd Street), Danny Rutigliano (Broadway’s I Need That and Beetlejuice) and Rachel Stern (Broadway’s Girl from North Country and Shrek).
The creative team for the production consists of Nate Bertone (Scenic Design), Jeanette Christensen (Costume Design), J. Jared Janas (Hair, Wig and Makeup Design), Kirk Bookman (Lighting Design), and Jeff Sherwood (Sound Design). Merrick A.B. Williams is production stage manager. Musical arrangements by Sam Davis with orchestrations and additional arrangements by Greg Jarrett. Casting is by Paul Hardt.
Last of the Red Hot Mamas will begin previews on Friday, June 28 with an official press opening on Thursday, July 11 at 7:30 pm. Starting with the 2024 season, the show times have changed – with performances beginning 30 minutes earlier than in 2023. All evening performances now all begin at 7:30 pm, with all matinees now performed at 1:30 pm. Last of the Red Hot Mamas will play Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 pm with matinees on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 pm. Tickets start at $39. Special discounts are available for groups of 10 or more. Patrons are invited to a special “Pay-What-You-Can Preview Performance” on Friday, June 28 at 7:30 pm. Suggested minimum is $10. Student rush tickets are also available at all performances, based on availability.
For full details, and to purchase tickets, please visit buckscountyplayhouse.org, call 215-862-2121, or visit the box office at 70 South Main Street, New Hope, PA.
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Events

Hamptons Fashion Week Keeps Getting Hauter So Save The Date

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Hamptons Fashion Week®, is the premier fashion event in the Hamptons! On July 26th-27th, 2024, join us at the luxurious Summer Series and an unforgettable experience. With over multiple designer shows, runways, luxury brands and exhibitor spaces during Hamptons Super Saturday®, Hamptons Swim Week® with a range of exciting activations, this is the must-attend event of the year.

At Hamptons Fashion Week®, leading fashion designers, entertainment, and productions are all under one roof, creating a truly immersive and transformative experience. You’ll have the opportunity to rub shoulders with industry professionals, fashion designers, models, and more, all while experiencing the latest trends in fashion.

From panel discussions and product demonstrations to social events such as industry mixers, after parties, lifestyle events and more! Guests will have access to exclusive, on-site hospitality, unmatched insider extras, and more, making this a truly coveted invitation.

Reserve your access now to receive one of fashion’s most coveted invites and be a part of the best touring fashion hampton experience of the year. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to be a part of the transformation of the fashion industry. Join us at Hamptons Swim Week® presented by Hamptons Fashion Week® Summer Series and Experience 2024!

Hamptons Fashion Week announced that it will feature Alice & Olivia and Michelle Farmer as their award recipients at Hampton’s Fashion Week Retail Of The Year Award Show on July 26th VIP Reception. Event coverage will be brought to you by E! News!, Bella Magazine, Dans Paper, Hamptons.com, Vogue  and other major influencers! There will also be a swim Week Runway Showcase by Johnny Was

 
This year, Celebrity, Hollywood Stylist & Designer Phillip Bloch will be receiving the Style Icon of The Year Award , July 27th during the program and show 6pm-10pm
 
Shop our latest brands at theHamptons Fashion Week Online Marketplace!
 
You need tickets so click here. Security will be super tight for this event. So if you don’t have a ticket there is no entrance.

VIP Tickets $500 include:

Swag Bag-Valued at $500{One Per Person]

Seating

Access to ALL 3 Events!

July 26th, 6=10pm, Vip Launch Party-Drinks , Bites & Entertainment. The cocktail reception is from 6pm to 8:30pm 

July 27th, Drinks, Bites , Entertainment plus Hamptons Fashion Week Fashion Show Debut in Westhampton. The cocktail reception is from 6pm to 8:30p and After Party.Double check on the List below

VIP Restaurant Sponsors:

Justin Chop Shop

Rouge Kitchens

The Cottage On The Hamlet

Sobol

Centro

Mill Road Seafood

Fruit King

North Fork Chocolate Company

Honest Plate Chef Nicolas

Mary’s Pizza And Pasta

Tonino’s Pizza

Buoy One

Jerri’s Cakery & Confections

Daphne’s Westhampton Beach

Insatiable Eats

Vern Restaurant And Bar

VIP Spirit Sponsors

William Grant And Sons

Votto Vines Importing

Hamptons Wine Shoppe

Handlebar

British Ginger T

Monkey In Pardise

Elbuhl Mezcal

Twin Stills Moonshine

Blue Nextar

Penelope Bourbon

Westhampton Beach Brewing

Twin Stills Moonshine

Fort Hamilton Distillery

Kleos Mastiha Spirits

Beau Joie Rose Champange

Cantera Negra Tequila

Bay Gin

Twisted Cow Distillery

Series 19 Wheat Vodka

Series 19 Rye Vodka

Series 19 Jalapeno Vodka

Dune Drifter Agave Spirit

Spy Ring Rum Raisin

Drinksouthside

 

 

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Out of Town

Standing at the Sky’s Edge in the West End Soars Three Times Higher Than Expected

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As the dawn breaks” over the houses, a songbird’s tender melody flies this new musical forward over the three mornings, decades apart. As three households are revealed, dated and notated above as 1960, 1989, and 2015, we are welcomed most harmoniously to the brutalist iconic housing development in Sheffield, and the emotionally clever and connecting musical, Standing at the Sky’s Edge. Sitting forcibly on top of the world, with a forever fussy neon sign giving us a glimpse into some form of engagement ahead, the musical, as written by the wonderfully talented Richard Hawley (“Soldier On“), digs into the personal ramifications of the nation’s political upheavals that bubble up into the lives of these families from the 1960s through Thatcherism, immigration, Brexit, and beyond. With a strongly layered book by Chris Bush (The Changing Room), Sky’s Edge unearths deeply felt, intertwined connections in the three families of three generations over six decades. The opening feels almost Shakespearian, with subtle flavors that remind us of that opening monologue from Romeo & Juliet (a show we were seeing hours after this show), with these somewhat stereotypical family dynamics moving steadily forward in life and love. Planted inside this boxy structure of many layers, these characters find greater depth with each passing emotional moment as they move forward through a classic gentrification dynamic all within one concrete iconic housing estate.

Laura Pitt-Pulford as Poppy, Elizabeth Ayodele as Joy. and Rachael Wooding as Rose in Standing at the Sky’s Edge in the West End. Photo Credit: Brinkhoff Moegenburg

All adventures are scary,” we are told pretty straight up in this fascinating creation, and we lean into the melodic unveiling before us. The three stories of differing social situations are riveting, engaging us in ways that resemble more of a play with fantastic deliverable songs sung in a more performative fashion rather than sung from within the storytelling. Delivered like rockstars standing at their microphone stand (sometimes), and arranged and orchestrated by Tom Deering (Almeida’s Tammy Faye) with musical direction by associate music supervisor Alex Beetschen (RADA’s Spring Awakening), this midnight train is a clever layering filled with many little treasures that add energy and emotional clarity to the piece. As the characters open up their doors to us, they keep deepening their directive, revealing their dilemmas and dynamics with sharp contrast and emotional compassion.


Elizabeth Ayodele as Joy and Samuel Jordan as Jimmy in Standing at the Sky’s Edge in the West End. Photo Credit: Brinkhoff Moegenburg.

The cast is completely fantastic across the board, giving us chills in their unity of action, striking forward the distress and pain of the world they live in while struggling to hold on to the few crumbs of gratitude and humble acceptance. They find harmony in their collective, drawing us in, even as they stand together in a more choral arrangement. The leads are particularly good, with Samuel Jordan (“Sex Education“) in the pivotal role of Jimmy giving us an anchor to hold onto, with his counterpoint, Elizabeth Ayodele (NT’s Small Island) as Joy, the one who catches his eye (or is it the other way around). The circumstances that plant her here are complicated and emotionally stirring, delivered well by the family of actors that surround her, including Sharlene Hector (Barbican’s Strange Loop) as her Aunt Grace and Baker Mukasa (RSC’s The Winter’s Tale) as cousin George. Also tugging hard on our heartstrings are the young married couple who move into the flat with the view in the 1960s, played strongly by Rachael Wooding (Dominion’s We Will Rock You) as Rose and Joel Harper-Jackson (West End’s Cock) as Harry. Their heartbreaking unraveling is the key to the Sky’s Edge puzzle that slowly comes together with grace and dignity. But they are just part of the formulations.The whole is what makes this musical sing and stride forward so effectively.

The most modern entry into that flat is the compelling story of Poppy, played strong and true by Laura Pitt-Pulford (NT’s The Light Princess), and the complexities that surround Nikki, played engagingly well by Lauryn Redding (Vaudeville’s The Worst Witch). Redding delivers the song, “Open Up Your Door” with a force that knocks us off-center, mainly because we see it one way, until we are thrown a curve ball to look at it in a different framing of light. Poppy’s story is the looser connective tissue, keeping itself one knot removed, unlike the other two tales. But it somehow stays tied in, even if the grief and the sense of loss are played out in reverse. They still register, and give us a new doorway to walk through.

Lauryn Redding as Nikki, Laura Pitt-Pulford as Poppy, and the cast of Standing at the Sky’s Edge in the West End. Photo Credit: Brinkhoff Moegenburg

Tonight, the streets are hot,” and the show unpacks a wealth of interactive complications and connections in a series of tender boxes that have been dutifully crafted to keep the tumultuous rain out, laid out with style by set and costume designer Ben Stones (Leeds’ Hedwig and the Angry Inch), with sharply tuned in lighting by Mark Henderson (Chichester’s Flowers for Mrs. Harris) and a strong sound design by Bobby Aitken (West End’s Ghost). As directed with care and focus by Robert Hastie (Sheffield/Donamr’s She Loves Me), the framing embraces our curiosity continuously, and engages our attention throughout, leading us through fireworks, love, despair, and grief that touch our collective heart and soul in abundance.

This magnificently moving three-layered story, with stunningly searing songs and sharply tuned-in choreography by Lynne Page (Broadway’s American Psycho) is billed as a musical, but carries the heavy weight of a play that is unpacking modern Britain and its politics. Delivered and unpacked through the stories of the landmark Park Hill estate. this view from the sky’s edge is a powerfully performed and sung exploration of the connective tissues of community and family, and what it means to take shelter in a brutialist box that will keep out the rain.

Rachael Wooding as Rose and Joel Harper-Jackson as Harry in Standing at the Sky’s Edge in the West End. Photo Credit: Brinkhoff Moegenburg.

The musical engages, pulling us gently into a dramatic tension that surprises and enlightens. Standing at the Sky’s Edge gives us a stunning view to take in, three times stronger than anything I could have imagined, and one that we won’t easily forget. Winner of the 2023 Olivier Award for Best New Musical, UK Theatre Award for Best Musical Production, and the South Bank Sky Arts Award, Standing at the Sky’s Edge soars to the highest of heights and holds us tight. Now playing until August 3rd at the Gillian Lynne Theatre, London.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com
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