Friday, July 23, 2010

CAP 21 Presents SUMMER STOCK NYC

I was fortunate this morning in being able to catch the final performance of CAP21 Presents Summer Stock NYC: A Celebration of the Broadway Musical at Hunter College’s Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse. The 75 minutes show focused on women in Broadway with rollicking renditions of terrific songs from everything from Oklahoma to Thoroughly Modern Millie, and from Les Miserables to Sunset Boulevard.

The show got off to a slow start but quickly picked up steam and by the time of its final number, the audience was on its feet in cheers. The Director (Scott Burkell), Choreographer (Tony Stevens) and Musical Director (Karl Mansfield) all deserve considerable credit for putting together such an entertaining production - as do all the rest of the Creative and Music teams and the Acting Ensemble. But the biggest accolades must go to the show’s seven female stars – Karen Mason, Colleen Zenk, Carrie Manolakos, Pearl Sun, Kelly Felthous, Dana Steingold and Kelsey Crouch Pinter – all of whom boasted extraordinary voices and marvelous stage presences . Of the seven, Karen Mason was the best of the best, but that’s not to take anything away from the other six, all of whom were wonderful in their own rights.

The only thing wrong with the show was that it had too short a run – only six performances in Manhattan in all –so it could not attract the large size audience it deserved. But the company has indicated that it plans to correct that problem with the show it stages next year, with performances in all five boroughs. Keep that in mind and try not to miss it, whatever borough you might hail from.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Off Off Broadway: Mrs. Warren's Profession

George Bernard Shaw will be remembered as one of the greatest playwrights in history, perhaps second only to Shakespeare in the pantheon of literary luminaries in the English-speaking world. His plot structures were elegant, his character development exemplary, his language and style peerless. But most of all, he will be remembered for his acerbic wit, his contempt for the cant and hypocrisy that permeates society, and his attacks on religion, sexual mores, and the capitalist system – all of which ideas found their way into his plays. Mrs. Warren’s Profession, one of his most controversial plays, exemplifies all of that – which explains why it was banned in England for a decade before it was allowed to be produced in a members-only club in London and why it had to withstand continuing legal challenges to its production both in England and the United States for years after that.

Compassion Theater Company, founded just two years ago, deserves credit for attempting an Off Off Broadway production of this multi-layered and highly nuanced play dealing with inter-generational strife, conventional social mores, the capitalist economic system, class and marital relationships, prostitution, possible incest and, not least of all, early examples of feminist sentiments. But while the company deserves credit for its ambitious efforts, the realizations of those efforts left much to be desired and this production was ultimately disappointing.

For one thing, at least two of the actors were badly miscast. Vincent Petrosini, who played the role of the Reverend Sam Gardner, appeared to be no older than Alexander Harvey, who played the role of his son Frank – an off-putting situation at best. And Carina Moses, who not only produced the play but starred in the role of Mrs. Warren’s daughter, Vivie, came across as much too soft and tentative a personality in a role that bespoke a harder, tougher, grittier woman. Beth Adler as Mrs.Warren and Dave T. Koenig as Sir George Crofts played their roles adequately and Franco Pastritto did bring some style to his role as Praed. But the one standout in the cast was Alexander Harvey who played his role with considerable flair and whose eerie resemblance to Alan Cumming lent a mildly diabolical aura to his persona.

The lighting, set design and direction also were badly flawed. Understandably, Off Off Broadway theatre groups don’t have resources sufficient to build extravagant sets, but that doesn’t mean that the minimal sets that do produce must be as pedestrian and dreary as this one was. The director’s conceit in having Mrs. Warren traipse off the stage and around the theater’s aisles just didn’t work – other than to induce some sprained necks among audience members. And the lighting came across as just plain haphazard.

In sum, the company deserves an A for effort but its reach really did exceed its grasp. Perhaps this is just too difficult and complex a play for a troupe with that short a history.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Retirement in New York

My article on Retirement in New York - A Theatre Lover's Dream is now posted on the Theatre Is Easy website (www.theasy.com).