Friday, September 13, 2019

ONLY YESTERDAY - A Night in the Lives of John Lennon and Paul McCartney

L-R: Tommy Crawford and Christopher Sears in ONLY YESTERDAY.  Photo by Carol Rosegg.
It was more than fifty years ago, back in 1964, that “Beatlemania” was all the rage, but to us (and many others, we are sure) it seems like it was “only yesterday.”  That year, with six number one singles under their belt and having received a rousing reception in their debut performance on The Ed Sullivan Show (an estimated 73 million people tuned in to watch them on their black and white TV sets), the “Fab Four” embarked on a months-long nationwide concert tour before adoring crowds across America.


When their tour was temporarily stalled by a hurricane in Florida, however, they were forced to put everything on hold for a day or two, making an unscheduled stop in Key West before continuing on to Jacksonville.  And so it was that John Lennon and Paul McCartney, both in their early 20’s, found themselves holed up together for the night in a cheap hotel room in Key West with little to do but drink and talk.  Which is just what they did.  Until they also cried.
Or at least that’s pretty much what Paul said happened when he was interviewed more than four decades later.  It was on a radio broadcast in 2011 that he recalled that night in 1964 when he and John drank, talked and cried together for reasons he could no longer be certain of but which he thought probably related to the deaths of both of their mothers when they were in their early teens - and the emotional toll it took on them.

This was really all that the playwright Bob Stevens had to go on when he wrote Only Yesterday, a slight but charming one act play, currently enjoying its New York premiere at 59E59 Theaters on East 59th Street in midtown Manhattan.  In Only Yesterday, we are treated to Stevens’ imagining of what might have transpired on that night in 1964 as John Lennon (Christopher Sears) and Paul McCartney (Tommy Crawford) not only drank and talked – and, yes, cried – but also engaged in good humored horseplay from Monopoly to pillow-fighting, jammed on their guitars, half-heartedly attempted to write some songs, and even delivered a blow for integration by refusing to perform before a segregated audience in Jacksonville.

Somewhat surprisingly, perhaps, the show is light on the Beatles’ own music but it does include tunes by Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry - and remarkably entertaining impersonations of Bob Dylan (by Crawford) and of Elvis Presley (by Sears).  Indeed, the Presley impersonation was a real show-stopper and, if nothing else, it alone is sure to leave you smiling for days to come.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Traveling Through Time with TECH SUPPORT at 59E59 Theaters

L-R: Margot White, Mark Lotito, Leanne Cabrera, Ryan Avalos, and Lauriel Friedman in TECH SUPPORT.  Photo by Russ Rowland. 

Tech Support by Debra Whitfield, currently premiering at 59E59 Theaters on East 59th Street in midtown Manhattan, is one for the ages – but not in a good way.  It is a trite rom-com, dependent upon a preposterous time-travel premise, in which Pamela Stark (Margot White), a middle-aged rare book dealer living in Manhattan in 2020, inadvertently embarks on a series of journeys to random years in the twentieth century: 1919, 1946, and 1978.

Pamela is in the throes of a divorce and something of a Luddite, capable of adjusting a pop-up toaster or opening a Tupperware container, but not much more.  She perceives herself as “an analogue girl in a digital world.”  And so, when her computer’s printer acts up, she is forced to telephone “tech support” for assistance but when she presses the wrong button on her phone, she somehow finds herself back in the year 1919.  It is there that she meets Charlie Blackwell (Mark Lotito), the kindly proprietor of Mrs. Blackwell’s Boarding House; Grace (Lauriel Friedman), an intelligent and politically ambitious women’s suffragette; Maisie (Leanne Cabrera), a much milder, fragile and old-fashioned – albeit pregnant - suffragette; and Chip (Ryan Avalos), a decent, handsome young man who, unbeknownst to him, is responsible for Maisie’s pregnancy.

(Pamela’s subsequent time travels are predicated on even sillier contrivances: she fiddles with the dials on a Victrola and a radio, pushes the wrong door buzzer, and provides a Lyft driver with a house number but no street name.)

But back to 1919.  Pamela prevails upon Maisie not to undergo an abortion, not because Pamela herself is pro-life (indeed, she actually professes to being pro-choice) but only because abortions in 1919, unlike in 2020, are really dangerous.  In fact, Pamela admits to once having had an abortion herself, although she also allows that

“I had a lot of sleepless nights and if I had it to do over again, I’m not sure I’d make the same decision.  But I’m glad I had the choice!”

Anyway, Maisie doesn’t get an abortion and gives birth to Chip Jr. (Ryan Avalos), the spitting image of his father, wouldn’t you know, and it’s a good thing for Pamela that she did because when Pamela lands in 1946 (right after the end of World War II), she meets Chip Jr. and they fall in love.  (Wasn’t so great for Maisie, though, who died in childbirth, which is simply glossed over.  Maybe an abortion illegally performed by a doctor in 1919 might actually have been safer for Maisie than giving birth that year, but we’ll never know and won’t really bother to think about.)

And this is what is wrong with the play.  The playwright consistently attempts to have things both ways, without actually dealing with serious issues in any depth.  And so, in similar fashion, when Grace’s subsequent marriage to Charlie is teetering on the brink of collapse because her successful political career is interfering with what her husband really wants -  a wife who will stay home, cook, clean and darn his socks - we are treated to this banal exchange:

Grace: You know that I love my job and I feel that I’m just now starting to make a difference.  But I love you more.  What does it matter how many men and women I help, if the one who means the most to me isn’t there?  I want to come home.  If it means resigning my office, so be it.

Charlie: I don’t know what to say.  I’m flabbergasted.

Grace: You don’t have to say anything except “welcome home.”

Charlie: Oh Gracie….I love you so much.  I guess all I really wanted to hear you say you loved me enough to give it all up –

Grace: I don’t understand –

Charlie: You don’t have to quit.  I won’t let you quit – you’re doing a lot of good for the city and I want you to know that you have my “full support.”  Just hire another assistant, so we can have dinner together, every once in a while.

The play is also insufferably knee jerk pretentious.  According to Pamela, for example,

“…for some women it’s [abortion’s} become more dangerous because of antediluvian laws passed by old white men –“

and according to Grace

“There are forward-thinking men and women here {New York] but I’m not so sure about the rest of the country – especially in the hinterlands.”.

And there you have it: Tech Support is a hodgepodge of homilies and its audience is trapped in this time warp for 85 minutes.  But I feel sorrier for the play’s cast of five, all of whom are consummate professionals who will be trapped in this time warp for the next several weeks (the play is scheduled to run through September 21).  All five actors should be commended for performing exceptionally well, especially in light of the material they have been given to work with.


Thursday, August 22, 2019

SONGBOOK SUMMIT 2019: The Andersons Play Louis Armstrong at Symphony Space

The Anderson twins.  Photo by Lynn Redmile.
We have been privileged to have attended many of the Anderson twins’ concerts devoted to the lives and music of individual musicians - including Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Hoagy Carmichael, Jimmy Van Heusen, and Duke Ellington – and we have thoroughly enjoyed them all.  But last night’s performance of Songbook Summit 2019: The Andersons Play Louis Armstrong at Peter Norton Symphony Space's Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theatre on Broadway and 95th Street on Manhattan’s Upper West Side was in a class of its own.  This was a truly memorable performance of the work of one of the worlds' greatest entertainers and jazz ambassadors and it rose head and shoulders above all of the Anderson twins’ other performances, wonderful as they all were.

I’m not really sure why that should have been the case.  I don’t think that it was due to the performances of Peter and Will Anderson themselves: while the twin virtuosos on the tenor sax, soprano sax, clarinet, and flute performed brilliantly in their paean to Louis Armstrong, they do so consistently, so I don’t think it was that.  The twins were very ably accompanied by Rossano Sportiello on piano, Paul Wells on drums, and Vince Giordano on string bass, bass sax, tuba, and vocals and those three were all equally terrific but then, so too were their counterparts - Jeb Patton on piano, Chuck Redd on drums and vibraphone, Neal Miner on bass, and Molly Ryan on vocals – who performed at last week’s concert, Songbook Summit 2019: The Andersons Play Duke Ellington, so I don’t think it was that either.

Mike Davis.  Photo by Jean Kratochvil.

At least part of it may be attributable to the performance of Mike Davis, the extraordinary young trumpet player, who was brought in at the last minute to substitute for Jon-Erik Kellso whose scheduled flight from Switzerland to America had been delayed.  Nothing can be more vital to a concert celebrating the life and work of Louis Armstrong than the band’s trumpet player so I had a moment of trepidation when I heard that Mr. Kellso wouldn’t be there and that the young Mr. Davis would be filling in for him. 


My concerns were quickly alleviated.  Mr. Davis performed absolutely brilliantly and it is hard to imagine how Mr. Kellso, or anyone else for that matter, could have done any better.  Indeed, I count myself truly fortunate in having had this opportunity to attend a Mike Davis’ performance.

A second factor that might help to explain why this concert, Songbook Summit 2019: The Andersons Play Louis Armstrong, was so spectacular relates to Louis Armstrong himself.  The Anderson twins’ Songbook Summit concerts are not just musical performances but include entertaining narrations by Will Anderson relating to each musician’s life, accompanied by expressive video presentations and Al Hirschfeld illustrations.  And the story of Louis Armstrong’s life was so remarkable that it lent itself to the most entertaining of narrations and video presentations.

Born to a fifteen year old girl who turned to prostitution to support her family, Armstrong was abandoned by his father, growing up in a New Orleans neighborhood so dangerous that it was known as “The Battlefield.”  He dropped out of elementary school and was incarcerated at the age of eleven for 18 months in the Colored Waifs’ Home for having shot a blank into the air on New Year’s Eve   Yet he surmounted the most difficult of obstacles and went on to become an icon of the jazz world and to influence performers and musical genres as diverse as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, rock and roll, and rhythm and blues.

Songbook Summit 2019: The Andersons Play Louis Armstrong begins with a rendition of “Muskrat Ramble,” written by Kid Ory and first recorded by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five, a tune which went on to become the group’s most frequently recorded piece.  The show continues with exceptional performances (among others) of “St. James Infirmary,” "Struttin' with Some Barbecue," "Potato Head Blues," "Swing That Music," “What a Wonderful World”  and, of course, "Hello Dolly."

Songbook Summit 2019: The Andersons Play Louis Armstrong is only scheduled to run through August 23 so there’s scarcely any time left to see it.  But we sure urge you to make the effort.  You won’t regret it.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

SONGBOOK SUMMIT 2019: The Andersons Play Duke Ellington at Symphony Space


Peter and Will Anderson’s Songbook Summit is becoming a “not to be missed” annual event at Peter Norton Symphony Space's Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theatre on Broadway and 95th Street on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.  In last year’s program, the Anderson twins, two exceptionally accomplished jazz musicians (Peter on the tenor sax, soprano sax, and clarinet, and Will on the alto sax, clarinet and flute), paid tribute to four of the greatest American songwriters of the last century - Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Hoagy Carmichael, and Jimmy Van Heusen - devoting a week of performances to each of the four.  It was one helluva show and we absolutely loved it.

This year’s program showcases just two musicians, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, and devotes only six performances over three days to each of them.  And that is the only bone we have to pick with the twins regarding this year’s production.  We would have liked to have seen even more musicians featured and we assuredly would have preferred to have seen longer runs.  A mere six performances over the course of only three days for each of them just doesn’t seem to do justice to Ellington and Armstrong, two of America’s all-time jazz greats.

Be that as it may, we just saw the first half of this year’s program – The Andersons Play Duke Ellington – running only from August 13-15, and it was terrific.  Duke Ellington was the most prolific American composer of all time who shattered musical barriers with his distinctive style while traveling around the world with his jazz orchestra for more than a half century.  He passed away in 1974 but the twins bring him to life again, at least for the ninety minutes of their program.  (The second half of this year’s Songbook Summit - The Andersons Play Louis Armstrong – won’t be staged until August 21-23, so we’re unable to comment on that program yet.)

The Andersons Play Duke Ellington showcases Ellington’s life and music with video presentations, entertaining narration by Will Anderson, Al Hirschfeld illustrations, and an all-star jazz sextet that includes, in addition to the Anderson twins, Jeb Patton on piano, Neal Miner on bass, Chuck Redd on drums and vibraphone, and Molly Ryan on vocals. 

The show begins with a rousing instrumental rendition of that perennial Ellington favorite”Take the A Train.”  It continues with entertaining renditions of "Mood Indigo," "Caravan," "In My Solitude," and "Satin Doll."   It provides an intriguing lesson on the Influence of Japanese music on Ellington with “Ad Lib on Nippon.”  And it culminates in Molly Ryan’s belting out a show-stopping "It Don't Mean a Thing If it Ain't Got That Swing."

The audience loved it as did we.  Little wonder that we’re eagerly awaiting next week’s staging of The Andersons Play Louis Armstrong.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

SUMMER SHORTS-SERIES B at 59E59 Theaters.

L-R: Ro Boddie And Jack Mikesell in APPOMATTOX, part of SUMMER SHORTS - SERIES B.  Photo by Carol Rosegg.

The Summer Shorts program at 59E59 Theaters on East 50th Street in midtown Manhattan is an annual event consisting of six one-act plays by established and upcoming playwrights, equally divided between two series, A and B, and it is generally well worth seeing.  Unfortunately, we were unable to attend a performance of this year’s Series A but we have just returned from the opening performance of Series B and I can assure you that this second half of 2019’s program is as good as it gets. 

Series B consists of three plays – Lucky by Sharr White, Providence by Nancy Bleemer, and Appomattox by Neil LaBute – and each is excellent on its own.  Taken together, however, they make for a truly memorable production.

The three plays deal with three totally different issues – PTSD, marriage, and reparations for slavery – but they take a very fresh look at those issues and that is what makes this production really worth seeing.  This is no rehash of conventional wisdom on those traditional themes.  Rather, it is an original, nuanced and challenging look at all of them that will leave you with more to think about than you might have bargained for.

Phil (Blake Delong) is the “lucky” soldier returning home in Lucky – “lucky” because he was neither killed nor physically injured during his service in World War II.  But the scars he bears are deep, even if they are not in physical evidence, and his re-integration into peacetime society does not come easy.  Both he and his wife, Meredith (Christine Spang) are forced to confront the un-confrontable and do so with the greatest sensitivity.

Providence is a delightful romp in which Michael (Jake Robinson) and his wife, Renee (Blair Lewin) have returned to Michael’s boyhood home to attend the wedding of Michael’s sister to Pauly (Nathan Wallace).  But nothing is as simple as might seem at first blush.  Neither Michael’s parents nor his aunts and uncles appear to have “good” marriages and several of Michael’s aunts and their offspring aren’t even on speaking terms.  And what does that say about the very institution of marriage?  When Pauly seeks advice from Michael and Renee regarding his own forthcoming marriage - he doesn’t need any advice about sex, he knows all about that, but he does want to know what married people actually talk about – it forces Michael and Renee to see their own marriage in a new light.

Jake Robinson and Blair Lewin are wonderful as the relatively young marrieds sorting it all out.  But it is Nathan Wallace who truly steals the show with a bravura performance as the conflicted groom-to-be.

Lucky and Providence are excellent productions but Neil LaBute’s Appomattox is in a class by itself and is far and away the best play of the lot.  Joe (Jack Mikesell), who is white, and Frank (Ro Boddie), who is black, are friends - at least to the extent of lunching together and tossing a football around.  Indeed, their racial difference might even seem to serve to bring them closer together since Joe is a typical well-meaning liberal who perceives himself as totally aware of the sensitivities of African-Americans.  But is he?  Or is he just another self-satisfied liberal confident in his own convictions, whether they be about busing or affirmative action or illegal immigration of reparations – just so long as he’s not expected to sacrifice too much.

Both Jack Mikesell and Ro Boddie are outstanding in their respective roles.  And wherever you might fall on the political spectrum, I daresay their performances will cause you to at least re-evaluate your position.

Monday, July 22, 2019

DOGG'S HAMLET, CAHOOT'S MACBETH by Tom Stoppard at The Atlantic Stage 2

L-R: Lucy Van Atta, Peter Schmitz, Christo Grabowski, and Connor Wright in DOGG'S HAMLET.  Photo by Stan Barouh.

Potomac Theatre Project (PTP/NYC) was founded in 1987 and moved to New York in 2007.  This year, in association with Middlebury College, it is staging a limited engagement of works by Vaclav Havel, Harold, Pinter, Samuel Beckett, and Tom Stoppard at The Atlantic Stage 2 on West 16th Street in downtown Manhattan.  Half of this season’s program, Havel: The Passion of Thought, consists of three of Havel’s “Vanek plays” – Audience, Private View, and Protest – together with Pinter’s The New World Order and Beckett’s Catastrophe.  Last week, we were fortunate enough to attend a performance of that production and we thoroughly enjoyed it (see our recentpost).

The other half of PTP/NYC’s thirty-third repertory season showcases Tom Stoppard’s Dogg’s Hamlet, Cahoot’s Macbeth.  Now, having attended a performance of that show as well, we are delighted to say that it is just as good.  In fact, it is terrific.

In Philosophical Investigations, Ludwig Wittgenstein challenged the generally accepted view of language as being fully explicable in terms of signification – i.e., the idea that all words, in all circumstances, may be understood as simply standing in for the objects, actions or qualities they represent.  That, of course, is the way children learn languages to begin with: they are shown five, red apples or a boy throwing a ball and are thereby taught what the words “five,” red,” “apple,” “boy,” “throw,” and “ball” mean.  But while Wittgenstein never denied that such signification plays an important role in language, he contended that there was far more to language, meaning and communication than that.

As an example, he imagined a situation in which two construction workers – A and B – shared a primitive language consisting only of the four words: “block,” “pillar,” “slab,” and “beam.”  Now if an observer, unfamiliar with the language, were to hear A shout out “Beam!” and then were to see B handing something to A, it certainly would be reasonable for him to conclude that the word “beam” merely signified whatever it was that B handed to A..  But what if it didn’t?  The word “beam,” as A used it and as B understood it, might actually have meant “bring me that object” or, if B were already aware of what A would want next, it might even simply have meant something like “Next” or “Here” or “Ready” or “OK.”

In the late 1970s, Tom Stoppard was so inspired by that passage in Philosophical Investigations and by the blacklisting of the Czechoslovakian playwright Pavel Kohout that he wrote two plays: Dogg’s Hamlet and Cahoot’s Macbeth.  Both were based on Shakespearean classics (much as was Rosencranz and Guildenstern Are Dead); both imagined the ramifications of speakers of different languages using the same words but with different meanings and/or understanding the same words in different ways; and the two plays were meant to be produced together as Dogg’s HamletCahoot’s Macbeth.  Indeed, Stoppard expressly stated:

“The comma that divides Dogg’s Hamlet, Cahoot’s Macbeth also serves to unite two plays that have common elements; the first is hardly a play at all without the second, which cannot be performed without the first.”

Dogg’s Hamlet is a direct riff on Wittgenstein’s thought experiment regarding the meanings of words based upon their actual use rather than solely on their signification.  In Stoppard’s play, several high school students including Abel (Zach Varricchione), Baker (Connor Wright), and Charlie (Madeline Russell) are preparing a production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in English.  The catch is that the students only speak Dogg which uses the same words as English does but with altogether different meanings (“useless,” for instance, means “good day” and “mouseholes” means “egg”) so that to them, what we understand as English is truly a foreign language.   When Easy (Matthew Ball), a deliveryman who speaks English rather than Dogg, arrives with materials to build the play’s set – including bricks, cubes, slabs and planks - all hell breaks loose.

That, of course, is because what Easy means by “brick,” “cube,” “slab,” and “plank” (which is what we and other English-speakers mean by those words) isn’t at all what Abel, Baker, Charlie and other Dogg-speakers mean by them.  To Dogg-speakers, “brick” means what “here” means to Easy; “slab” means “yes” or “okay”; “cube” means “thanks” or “thank you”; and “plank” means “ready.”  A collapsing Tower of Babel would seem inevitable – and it is.

Ultimately, Dogg’s Hamlet does include a performance of a comically abridged version of Hamlet - and then an encore performance of an even more abbreviated version of that.  And, as something of a bonus, Easy (and the audience) manage to learn (or “catch”) a little bit of Dogg to boot.


L-R: Denise Cormier, Christopher Marshall, Lucy Van Atta, and Tara Giordano in CAHOOT'S MACBETH.  Photo by Stan Barouh.
Cahoot’s Macbeth pushes the envelope even further.  Stoppard dedicated this play to the Czechoslovakian playwright Pavel Kohout who, together with others, was prevented from plying his theatrical trade in his native country by the totalitarian Communist Government of Czechoslovakia.  In response, Kahout, Pavel Landovsky, and others formed the “Living-Room Theatre” (LRT) troupe which supported itself by working as street-sweepers and waitresses by day while secretly performing plays in homes at night.

One such performance (of an abridged version of Macbeth), taking place in Cahoot’s Macbeth, is interrupted by the arrival of an Inspector (Tara Giordano) who understandably sees in the troupe’s “acting without authority” a metaphorical attack on the authority of the Communist Government.  And once again, Easy appears – only this time he’s speaking Dogg rather than English!

Stoppard’s double bill is as effective as George Orwell’s 1984 in its depiction of the transcendent importance of language in human society, especially in repressed societies.  Its play on words, its coded references, its metaphorical allusions, all of which we have come to associate with Stoppard, are here used to produce a very effective serio-comic double-barreled tour de force.

All of the members of the PTP/NYC ensemble deserve recognition for jobs very well done, with several of them playing multiple roles in these plays within plays, but I was especially impressed by the performances of Peter Schmitz in his multiple roles as Dogg, Shakespeare and Claudius in Dogg’s Hamlet and as Duncan and Lennox in Cahoot’s Macbeth, Matthew Ball as Easy in both plays, Christo Grabowski as Fox Major and Hamlet in Dogg’s Hamlet and as Banquo and Cahoot in Cahoot’s Macbeth, and Tara Giordano as Lady in Dogg’s Hamlet and as the Inspector in Cahoot’s Macbeth.

And kudos should go out to all of those at PTP/NYC who had the insight to create the combination of Havel’s “Vanek plays” (with a Pinter prologue and a Beckett epilogue) with this Stoppard double-bill, thereby underscoring the issues of freedom of speech, the rights of the individual, and the power of the spoken (or written) word.





Saturday, July 20, 2019

TWO'S A CROWD Starring Rita Rudner at 59E59 Theaters

L-R: Robert Yacko and Rita Rudner in TWO'S A CROWD.  Photo by Carol Rosergg.

Rita Rudner is a comedic icon.  A frequent guest on Late Night with David Letterman and The Tonight Show, she has starred in several HBO specials including Rita Rudner’s One Night Stand, Born to Be Mild, and Married Without Children, in Rita Rudner: Live from Las Vegas on PBS, and in Rita Rudner: A Tale of Two Dresses on Amazon Prime.  She has performed at Carnegie Hall in New York; at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles; and at the MGM Grand, Harrah’s, and the Venetian in Las Vegas.  In fact she holds the record for the longest running solo comedy show in the history of Las Vegas.

Now she has returned to the stage in New York City, starring in Two’s a Crowd at 59E59 Theaters on East 59th Street in midtown Manhattan.  Ms Rudner co-wrote the light-hearted two-act musical comedy with her husband, Martin Bergman, who also directs the play.
 
Given Ms Rudner’s resume, I was anticipating enjoying a cheerful romp of a play and eventually I was rewarded.  But it took much longer than I had expected and required a bit of patience on my part.  I found the play’s first act to be derivative and predictable and I must admit to having been disappointed.

The play begins with Wendy (Rita Rudner) and Tom (Robert Yacko) being forced to share a room in a Las Vegas hotel as a result of a computer glitch that resulted in the hotel’s overbooking its rooms.  Wendy and Tom couldn’t be more different.  She is as uptight as a woman can be and is only in Las Vegas on her own in an attempt to decide whether or not to leave her husband, Gus (Brian Lohmann), in light of her recent discovery of his infidelity.  Tom, in sharp contrast, is free-wheeling and spontaneous and is in Las Vegas to compete in the World Series of Poker.  Which means, of course, that since they have absolutely nothing in common, Wendy and Tom are sure to end up in bed together.  They do.  And there’s’ your first act.

And then the second act opened and I actually felt as if I was watching an altogether different show.  Gus unexpectedly appears and it is no longer quite so obvious what to expect.  All four of the play’s actors – Ms Rudner, Robert Yacko, Kelly Holden Bashar, and Brian Lohmann – express an exuberance that I found largely lacking in the first act.  Even the music of the second act struck me as far more creative and entertaining than the tunes in the first.

Both Rita Rudner and Robert Yacko were fully accomplished in their respective roles.  But I was surprised and delighted to find that the two supporting actors - Kelly Holden Bashar and Brian Lohmann – were even more entertaining than the two stars.  Ms Bashar plays two very different roles: she is both Louise, VP of Hotel Operations, and Lili, a hotel housekeeper – and she is absolutely terrific in both.  And I thought that her rendition of Lili’s Lament was a real star turn.

Brian Loehmann plays three different roles and handles them all with great aplomb.  In addition to being Wendy’s husband, Gus, he is Joe, a room service waiter, and another unexpected hotel guest.  And his rendition of Fix It All was, like Lili’s Lament, a real show stopper.

So the bottom line is this: even if you’re tempted to leave after the first act, don’t do it.  Stick it out and you’ll ultimately be rewarded by a very entertaining show.