Monday, May 28, 2012

Evita - May 25, 2012

It is my sad duty to inform you that Evita, the current Broadway revival playing at the Marquis Theater, was pronounced lifeless at 20:25 hours on Friday night.

'Twas a disappointment to realize this dazzling show lost the sparkle of its fantastic past. A past I only know through the cast recording of the original Broadway production starring Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.

I never saw that production-thanks to my twin brother, Larry, who passed on those tickets in high school-and have regretted it ever since. We both have.  We saw in this revival an opportunity to make things right. So, two weeks ago we shelled out $143 for orchestra seats and looked forward to our night of a thousand stars.

But oh, what a circus!

All the elements for a show that was certain to impress were in place.  The set was gorgeous.  The Casa Rosada was actually the best part of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina".

The lighting was moody, lush and evocative.  Oh, and Ricky Martin! He has a sweet, easy-on-the-eyes stage presence and a wonderful voice. But, I couldn't stop thinking that he was keeping himself in check vocally because he knows he has to sing 8 shows a week and needs to parcel it out to equitably to ensure he can tackle the next performance.

And that was the problem with the show.  I never got lost in the action.  My mind wandered to technical things such as...
  • How the performers phrasing changed to accommodate their shortness of breath after a dance break.  
  • If the woman in the crowd scene was uncomfortable in her costume because it looked as though it was her first time wearing it.
  • What route did Evita take to get from one side of the stage to the other so quickly and who lent assistance?
  • Why is the cast so bored?
All this could have been forgiven had Evita herself been up to the task.  Sadly, Elena Roger was not.  Her voice was shrill and annoying.  When she finally collapses near the end Larry turned to me and said, "Thank God!"  I know how he felt. I found myself grateful that I wasn't Elena's friend so I was spared the awkward backstage after-the-show moment of trying to figure out what to say.

"That was...yeah.  How do you feel?"

We imagined Patti LuPone slipping off at intermission for a cigarette and never coming back.  With all the talented performers out there why, oh why! was Elena Roger cast in this show?  WHY!?

We exited the show feeling disappointed yet happy that we finally saw Evita on Broadway.  Not for the production but because as Larry stated, "we've got that under our belt".  We felt we accomplished something but ultimately,

You let down your people Evita!

1535 Broadway (between 45th and 46th Streets)
New York, NY 10036
Tickets or call (212) 382-0100

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Don Pedro de la Cebolla

We've just passed a time of year where gifts of all sorts are given, received, desired and exchanged.  Sometimes we have a list of things we truly want or need but instead we get something else, something that falls short of our hopes for what might be hidden in the glittery wrappings and bows.  The same can be said of theater.  It is not the size of the venue, the ticket price, the opulence of the set or costumes nor star-names that determines the quality of a theatrical endeavor.  It is the simple, yet all too elusive merging of talent.  When you see it you know you are in the midst of a high quality production whether or not it contains the bells and whistles of a full blown Broadway show and often the best shows do indeed come in small, undistinguished packages.

Written with wit by Matthew Harrington and cleverly directed by Rachael Harrington  Don Pedro de la Cebolla is peppered with deft homages to the likes of Monty Python and Abbot & Costello while with extreme subtlety asking us to think (yes THINK!) about the state of our society, politics, court systems, patriotism, and even literacy.  Sounds a little heavy, doesn't it?  Well it's not.  In fact, the laughs simply do not stop, it is one of those wonderful pieces that are not just amusing but laugh out loud funny.

The six men of the cast are charming alternating silliness, confusion, sorrow and back again without missing a beat. And though all the action is set in one room, in the town of Piedra de las Rocas, this one act takes you on a quick trip around the world.  There are only five residents of the town and with Ben Sterling as a cartographer with no sense of direction; Emilio Cuaik as an endearingly innocent mortician who is squeamish about death; Justin Maruri as a gentleman who was "involved in the state prison system for some time" but at heart is an horticulturist; Mel Nieves as a lawyer with a sketchy history of client acquittals who sometimes regrets his ability to read; and Vincent Ticali as a woodworker who specializes only in toothpicks it's hard not to imagine Piedra de las Rocas as a version of the Island of Misfit Toys.  Pedro H. Rezende as the title character, Don Pedro, appears to be a pompous young man sent to Piedra de las Rocas to recruit this band of misfits on a quest for riches and glory (and ultimately the love of a princess) but is in fact the illegitimate son of the deceased King of Feotidus who has been banished from Court to keep him from claiming his birthright and has been put into the custody of the residents of Piedra de las Rocas for "the full term of his life as determined by local law and custom".  Oops.

Don Pedro de la Cebolla is a rare and lovely gift nestled in a modest package, a stunning jewel wrapped in brown paper and string.  The Interart Theatre Development Series and Royal Family Productions Emerging Directors Program is the Santa Claus delivering this gift.  And you will wish you had left him milk and cookies after seeing this wonderful play.  (Non-metaphorically, you really can do so, just make a donation here.) The quality is clear, and though this may not be the gift you were hoping for, you will find it is the one you really wanted all along.

Don Pedro de la Cebolla
The Interart Annex Theatre
500 West 52nd Street (at 10th Avenue)
New York, NY
January 16, 17, 18, 24 & 25 at 8:00pm
January 21 at 2:30 pm

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Celebrity Autobiography: In Their Own Words - March 23, 2009

A note in the Celebrity Autobiography: In Their Own Words program states:
And audiences members please remember, We're not trying to be mean...they wrote 'em!"
Created by Eugene Pack and Developed by Eugene Pack and Dayle Reyfel Celebrity Autobiography is one of the most fun shows around today and it's simply celebrities reading from real autobiographies of other celebrities. In other hands it might become mean-spirited, but here it never does. It feel like you're with a group of friends ragging good-naturedly on the ones who didn't show up at the party.

It goes a little like this:

Kristin Johnston beautiful long, lean blonde perfectly channeling the animus of Mr. T. ; Eugene Pack reading the voluminous (and hilarious) lists of foods Neil Sadaka eats at EVERY meal; Rachel Dratch becomes Burt Reynold's wild-eyed assistant reading in tandem with Johnston's Loni Anderson and Craig Bierko's spot on Burt.

Michael Urie delivers an utterly serious and straight faced read of the autobiography of 16-year old Destiny Hope Smiley Miley Cyrus's encounter with a tampon dispenser that will leave you gasping if you are lucky enough to see it.

Mike Birbiglia reading Kenny Loggins laundry list love letter makes you see just how different writing songs and writing prose can be.

In one of the great Hollywood triangles, Dayle Reyfel reads with perky charm from Debbie Reynolds, while Pack reads from Eddie Fisher, and the lovely Sherri Shepherd utterly becomes Liz Taylor with nothing more than a remarkable smile and glint in her eye as Scott Adsit does a wonderfully hilarious turn as Richard Burton. Just brilliant all around.

Add to this the great Alan Zweibel in an almost too funny turn on Eminem's unfortunate Grammy night "Mobey, Proof and Christina" followed by a team read of N'Sync Autobiographies as Joey.

While each and every performer did an amazing job reading the unintentionally funny words of various celebrities, much credit clearly belongs to Eugene Pack and Dayle Reyfel for scouring through hundreds of celebrity autobiographies and finding the perfect passages for the stage and even more for the difficult job of dove-tailing the "he said, she said" autobiographies together in a way that is side-splitting and seemingly effortless. But very clearly effort is made and deserves acknowledgment and a bravo. A simple premise, a simple set-up, and serious attention to the written word equal a tremendously entertaining evening of theater. The performers and selections change weekly so you might want to go several times but whether you see it once or twenty times: See it!

Celebrity Autobiography: In Their Own Words

Monday Nights at 7:30pm
The Triad Theater
158 W. 72nd Street
(Between Amsterdam & Columbus)
Tickets here or call Or Call 212-868-4444