Posted in bio-musical, living legend, Oklahoma, Patti Page, play with music

Side B was the beautiful "Tennessee Waltz"

Publicity photo of singer Patti Page pre-1978 from General Artists Corporation (management)

Clara Ann Fowler’s “flip side” is Patti Page, the singer (and woman) she became through a series of happenstances.

“Flipside: The Patti Page Story,” at 59E59 Theaters in a Front Page Productions/Square 1 Theatrics, in association with The University of Central Oklahoma, through December 30th, is a biography with music.

http://www.59e59.org

Greg White’s script (he also directs the play) features 28 of the 111 Billboard hits Patti Page sang over the years. The popular singer was born in a small Oklahoma town in modest circumstances, and discovered under the pseudonym of a jingle singer for the Page Milk Company at KTUL radio in Tulsa.

In “Flipside…,” her story as narrated by Clara Ann Fowler (Haley Jane Pierce) on the occasion of a 1965 tribute at KTUL for Miss Patti Page “The Singing Rage” (Lindise vanWinkle) with a sweet modesty and reserve. Clara will realize that hers is the voice of  Patti Page, and, as her daddy, Ben Fowler (Willy Welch) had told her, “‘Let ’em hear your voice, Clara Ann. ‘Cause there’s so much for them to hear.”

The modesty and down-hominess shrouds Patti Page’s accomplishments as an innovative musician. For instance, her recording of “Confess” has doubled up her voice for two parts — a technique born of necessity now known as overdubbing.  “We can’t afford two voices,”   her manager Jack Rael (Justin Larman) says. She was to sing echoing herself on a number of hits after that one was produced.

On one occasion, by way of illustration, “Flipside…” cheats in taking advantage of the technique– there are four Patti’s singing in “With My Eyes Wide Open, I’m Dreaming,” when Haley Jane Pierce and Lindsie van Winkle are joined by Jenny Rothmayer and Kassie Carroll in a Patti Page Quartet.
  
“Flipside…” makes the most of the sumptious array of gowns costume-designer Corey Martin has styled for it. Patti Page models a different one for each number.

There is a coda, a device not uncommon in the genre of biographical playwrighting,  in “Flipside…,” which helps us catch up with the singer today. At 85, Miss Patti Page is still performing. In 1998, she won a Grammy for her  Live at Carnegie Hall: The 50th Anniversary Concert.

For more information abut “Flipside: The Patti Page Story,” visit www.59e59.org

It was sad to hear that Patti Page died at the age of 85 on New Year’s day 2013.

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Posted in Amy Herzog, dark drama, Gretchen Mol, Keith Nobbs, The Good Mother

If Memory Serves… "The Good Mother" and "The Great God Pan"

If “the past is prologue,” what follows for those who are stuck in the past?

In their latest work, playwrights Amy Herzog and Francine Volpe focus on protagonists who are diminished by their past.

In Volpe’s “The Good Mother,” at the New Group in the Acorn theater through December 22nd, personal history sets up a pattern of self-destruction and delusion.  Larissa (Gretchen Mol) is held back by an infantile crush on her teen counsellor, Joel (Mark Blum.) Larissa exerts her considerable allure to entangle the men in her life in webs of intrigue.

Mark Blum as Joel and Gretchen Mol as Larissa in “The Good Mother.”  Photo by Monique Carboni.

Memory is a double-edged sword of nostalgia and dread in Herzog’s “The Great God Pan,” at Playwrights Horizons mainstage through  Januaray 6, 2013. It may be that Jamie (Jeremy Strong) is stymied by suppressed memories. Jamie has a middling career. He is not fully committed in his long-term relationship with Paige (Sarah Goldberg.) His mother, Cathy (Becky Ann Baker) worries that is not happy. Jamie is stumbling along with his life when he reunites with a boyhood friend, Frank (Keith Nobbs).Frank’s unwelcome revelations make Jamie and his father, Doug (Peter Friedman) uneasy.

Jeremy Strong as Jamie with Sarah Goldberg as Paige in “The Great God Pan.” Photo by Joan Marcus.
Keith Nobbs cuts a splendidly fierce goth-like figure. His Frank is straightforward and secure. Jeremy Strong’s Jamie is appropriately listless and uncertain.
Keith Nobbs as Frank and Jeremy Strong as Jamie  in “The Great God Pan.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

The pathologically self-absorbed Larissa in “The Good Mother,” on the other hand, willfully provokes a series of incidents that unsettle her peace and comfort. She victimizes Angus (Eric Nelsen), Joel’s troubled son, and leaves him bewildered. After a one-night stand, she calls upon the protective and equally befuddled Jonathan (Darren Goldstein) and then dismisses him.
Gretchen Mol as Larissa with Darren Goldstein as Jonathan in “The Good Mother.” Photo by Monique Carboni.

Larissa is a temptress and a user. She doesn’t seem to care that her schemes, like her troubled past, all seem to backfire. It’s easy to see her triumphant smirk from ten rows back as she draws in the long-ago jilted Buddy (Alfredo Narciso.)

Fans of HBOs Boardwalk Empire will be happy to again see Gretchen Mol in person. She acquits herself brilliantly in this psychological thriller.
The many lingering questions Amy Herzog leaves unanswered in “The Great God Pan” are part of its dramatic power. Carolyn Cantor directs the superb cast in even and compelling performances. Volpe’s “The Good Mother,” under Scott Elliot’s direction is satisfyingly complex. 
Larissa and Jamie are both hampered by their childhoods, and haunted by their pasts.
For more information about “The Good Mother,” visit http://www.thenewgroup.org/. To learn more about “The Great God Pan,” go to www.playwrightshorizons.org     

Posted in Boxing, Clifford Odets, disapproving fathers, family drama, fathers and sons, Godlen Boy, Lincoln Center Theater, The Belasco Theatre, Tony Shalhoub

Odets "Golden Boy" Pulls No Punches

Certainly there were many precedents, like The Jazz Singer,  of disappointed fathers whose sons were determined to pervert their pure talent for commercial success. Clifford Odets, however, had a hand in turning the dilemma of choosing fame over art into a cliché.

Seth Numrich as Joe and Yvonne Strahovski as Lorna in “Golden Boy.” Photo by Paul Kolnik 

In “Golden Boy,” at the Belasco Theatre again for its 75th anniversary, staged by Lincoln Center Theaters, and running through January 20th, a boy forsakes music for the excitement of the boxing ring.

In the 1930s, and for many years thereafter, boxers exerted celebrity. The limelight, not fiddling under a street lamp for tips, is what Joe Bonaparte (Seth Numrich) seeks. The day when Joe decides to put on boxing gloves, his father (Tony Shalhoub) spends a small fortune on a violin for his 21st birthday.

If Joe needs convincing on the path to the fight game, he gets it from Lorna Moon (Yvonne Strahovski), the hard-boiled dame who falls for his sweetness while pushing him toward brutality.

Yvonne Strahovski as Lorna Moon and Danny Mastrogiorgio as Tom Moody. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Tom Moody (Danny Mastrogiorgio), perhaps sensing their rivalry for Lorna’s affections, doesn’t much like the kid he’s managing. Tom dubs Joe “the cock-eyed wonder” to the press and fans.

Anthony Crivello as Eddie Fuseli with Seth Numrich as Joe Bonaparte. Danny Bustein as Tokio in background.
Photo by Paul Kolnik.

The gangster, Eddie Fuseli (Anthony Crivello), on the other hand, like Joe’s trainer, Tokio (Danny Burstein), is captivated by Joe. Fuseli buys a piece of the rising star, and then showers him with gifts of clothing. After a while, Joe begins to dress like his mentor. He takes on the trappings of oppulence, flashy clothes and a fast car. The one woman Joe wants is engaged to Tom Moody. The hubbub of Joe’s life is very different from the quiet and peace he felt when he was a champion violin-player as a boy.

Tony Shalhoub as Mr. Bonaparte, Seth Numrich as Joe and Danny Burstein as his trainer, Tokio. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Given Joe’s outsized resentments and grandiosity, it’s not hard to sympathize with his detractors, like Moody, or Roxy Gottlieb (Ned Eisenberg), the other member of the syndicate backing him. The press too don’t like Joe. Even Joe says, “I don’t like myself, past, present and future.”    Joe is a discontented soul, out to “show ’em all.”

Everything about the LCT production of “Golden Boy” is true to the period it represents, from the brilliant costumes by Catherine Zuber, to the dialect. In fact, as an example of the latter, Yvonne Strahovski, an Austrailian import making her LCT and Broadway debuts, is pitch-perfect as “the tramp from New Jersey.”

Overseeing the harmonious presentation, director Bartlett Sher shows his sensitivity and appreciation for Odets’s work in all facets of “Golden Boy.”

Among the well-directed cast, Michael Aronov stands out as Siggie, Joe’s brother-in-law, whose ambitions are homier and more down-to-earth that that of the “Golden Boy.” Seth Numrich gives a nuanced performance that keeps him in balance between Joe’s insecurity and his bravado. Danny Mastrogiorgio’s Tom Moody is so completely natural it’s as if he’s living the part. Credit Tony Shalhoub for his restraint in underplaying Mr. Bonaparte whom he embues with a resolute strength and sadness.

In fact, there are very few missteps in this “Golden Boy.” The only quibble brings us back to the beginning, that the story is by now so familiar that it mostly lacks dramatic surprise. And if it has become an mundane theme, we can lay some of that blame on Clifford Odets.

For more information about “Golden Boy,” please visit www.lct.org

Posted in Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, classic Ailey, dance, modern American dance, Paul Taylor, Revelations

It’s Ailey Season In The City

Dance is a sort of go-to during the holidays. For some of us New Yorkers, it’s Ailey Season.

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, at New York City Center through December 30th, is a sort of alt-Nutrcracker– not that there is anything wrong with the profusion of Nutcrackers around town.

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater company in “Revelations.” Photo by Manny Herhandez. 

The uplifting, “Revelations,” an Ailey-choreographed piece that has stopped the show all over the world since its creation in 1960, continues to be the crown-jewel of the AAADT.

Artisitic Director Emerita Judith Jamison in “Revelations” from the company archives.

 Going to church with Ailey is always a special privilege. At the performance we attended, the music was live, conducted by Nedra Olds-Neal, and the AAADT company was joined by Ailey II and Students of the Ailey School to make up a cast of 50.

Cast of 50 for “Revelations.” Photo by Christopher Duggan.

Ailey’s dancers are among those who can be entrusted to do justice to the Paul Taylor cannon. Indeed, Taylor directed them when they introduced his “Arden Court” to the repertory last season. AAADT’s style meshes well with the work.

AAADT in Paul Taylor’s “Arden Court.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.
The pomp and circumstance of the music by William Boyce has a processional grace. The dancing is at once majestic and down-to-earth. The muscularity of motion is fluid and easy. For Taylor, dance is play for adults.
AAADT’s rendering of “Arden Court” is joyful and fun. 
Robert Battle, who took over as the third Artistic Director in AAADT’s history in 2011 from Judith Jamison,
does not want his choreography to dominate the repertory. His “Takedeme” offered a brief (at just 5 minutes) but powerful and amusing addition to AAADT programming.
Yannick Lebrun makes a leap in Robert Battle’s “Takedeme” seem so easy.  Photo by Andrew Eccles.

 The score, “Speaking in Tongues II” by Sheila Chandra, scolds in jibberish. The dance is complex, based on Indian Kathak, and the dancer, Yanick Lebrun moved muscles he could not possibly have had in isolation.

The afternoon’s highlight, however, was Garth Fagan’s “From Before,” (1978) which enters AAADT repertory as a company premiere this season. Set to “Path” by Trinindadian composer, Ralph MacDonald, the dance starts out with African inflections, moves on to the Caribbean, and from there becomes jazzy. The Fagan-costumed cast in silken unitards, their bodies sleek in vivid colors. The steps are as lively as the vibrant melodies and rhythms that accompany the movement.

AAADT in Garth Fagan’s “From Before.” Photo by Paul Kolnik. 

For more information about Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and a schedule of programming, visit http://www.alvinailey.org/citycenter 

Posted in cabaret, musical theater, Penny Fuller, solo show with piano player

Penny Fuller Sings of "13 Things…"

Virginia (Penny Fuller) is a widow in distress. It seems her husband Ed mortgaged away their life’s assets to some shady characters, including his brother Frank and the local banker, Bob O’Klock, before his sudden death.

Musical Director Paul Greenwood plays the piano and Penny Fuller as Virginia sings in 13 Things About Ed Carpolotti. Photo by Carol Rosegg

In “13 Things About Ed Carpolotti,” at 59E59 Theaters through December 30th, Virginia under siege hums, sings and narrates her tale.

Penny Fuller as Virginia in “13 Things…” Directed by Barry Kleinbort (book, music and lyrics). Photo by Carol Rosegg

 

The tension in “13 Things About Ed Carpolotti” builds as new creditors approach Virginia. “We’re Gonna Be Fine,” the not-entirely-convinced Virginia says and sings. Penny Fuller, backed by pianist and musical director, Paul Greenwood, is a delight. She voices each of the townsfolk she encounters. Her emotions flutter then overflow. “We’re gonna be great… we’re gonna be swell.”

Penny Fuller is Virginia in “13 Things…” Photo by Carol Rosegg

The cafe seating is the showcase for a cabaret styled musical piece directed by Barry Kleinbort (book, music and lyrics), based on a play by Jeffrey Hatcher.

The humor is of the gentle gallows kind, the mood sentimental and sweet. “13 Things About Ed Carpolotti” proves to be a delightful little show.

For more information on “13 Things About Ed Carpolotti,” visit www.59e59.org.

Posted in based on a book by Studs Terkel, James Taylor, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mary Rodgers and Susan Birkenhead, musical, newly revised version of a Broadway musical, Stephen Schwartz

Pride in "Working"

Joe Cassidy in foreground with cast of “Working ” at 59E59 Theaters in a Prospect Theater Company production.
Photo by Richard Termine.

For most people, work is more than a job. It’s about more than collecting a paycheck. It’s about making a contribution.

“Working A Musical,” at 59E59 Theaters in a production by the Prospect Theater Company through December 30th, celebrates the dignity of the American workforce. The closing number,  Craig Carnelia’s “Something To Point To,” for instance, is a song of workers’ pride in what they do.

Based on Studs Terkel’s seminal series of interviews, “Working” was originally adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso, for a Chicago run at the Goodman Theatre in 1977 and moved to Broadway where it closed after just 24 post preview performances. It has been revised and performed many times since in Chicago and LA, Florida, New Haven and San Diego. The current revival, which also commemorates Terkel’s centenary, adds two new songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda and has additional contributions to the book by director Gordon Greenberg.

Marie-France Arcilla with the cast behind her working in a factory to the James Taylor tune “Millwork.”Photo by Richard Termine.
  

Songs in “Working” range from laments like Micki Grant’s “Cleanin’ Woman” and “If I Could’ve Been” and James Taylor’s “Millwork” to anthems like Taylor’s “Brother Trucker” those by Stephen Schwartz “All The Livelong Day,”or “Nobody Tells Me How” from Susan Birkenhead (lyrics) and Mary Rodgers  
(music) or Craig Carnelia’s “The Mason.”

“It’s An Art,” according to Delores Dante (Donna Lynne Champlin with cast  in background). Photo by Richard Termine.

If “Working” teaches us anything it’s that “Nobody is just a waitress!” Donna Lynne Champlin is a show of her own as the wonderful Delores Dante. “I get intoxicated with giving service,” Delores says as she shuttles plates and cups. “It becomes theatrical and I feel like… I’m on stage.” For Delores, being a waitress — well, in Schwartz’s words, “It’s An Art.”  

Variety is the spice of this musical tribute to “what we do all day,” as Terkel put it. Everyone gets to work in several settings.  In “Working,” six hard-working actors portay 36 of Terkel’s  industrious subjects. For instance, Joe Cassidy is credibly and movingly by turns an ironworker, hedge fund manager, a publicist, and a retiree.

Among the workers interviewed in “Working,” there is a factory worker (Marie-France Arcilla), a sex worker (Kenita R. Miller), a stone mason (Nahal Joshi), a fireman and a UPS driver (Jay Armstrong Johnson), a nanny and a flight attendant (Marie-France again),  a cleaning lady (Kenita), a fast food worker (Nahal), and a school teacher (Donna Lynne). Each has his own story and song  in the vignettes that make up the show.

Nehal Joshi, Jay Armstrong Johnson, and Joe Cassidy with Marie-France Arcilla, Kenita R. Miller and Donna Lynne Champlin behind them in Taylor’s “Brother Trucker.”  Photo by Richard Termine.

Along with Donna Lynne Champlin’s show-stopping contributions as Delores and then again as the school teacher, Rose Hoffman, there is also Joe Cassidy’s poignant portrayal of the retiree, Joe Zutty in Carnelia’s “Joe,”  neatly followed by “A Very Good Day” by Miranda and performed by Nehal Joshi as a elder-care worker, Utkarsh Trajillo and Marie-France Arcilla as the nanny, Theresa Liu. Kenita R. Miller’s Kate Rushton, “Just A Housewife” (Carnelia),  and Maggie Holmes, “A Cleanin’ Lady” (Grant) contrast with her buttomed-up project manager, Amanda McKenny, and her all-out prostitute Roberta Victor.  

The pace is fast, and the subject interesting.  In this economy, it sometimes feels like just having a job is a gift, but “Working” is about all the people who do the jobs–menial and meaningful– and how they feel about what they accomplish each day.

For more information about “Working,” visit www.59e59.org, please.

Posted in dark drama, Gretchen Mol, The Good Mother

Doomed to repeat past mistakes in "The Good Mother"

If “the past is prologue,” what follows for those who are stuck in the past?

In their latest work, playwrights Amy Herzog and Francine Volpe focus on protagonists who are diminished by their past. [More on Herzog’s play after opening on December 18th.]

In Volpe’s “The Good Mother,” at the New Group in the Acorn theater through December 22nd, personal history sets up a pattern of self-destruction and delusion.  Larissa (Gretchen Mol) is held back by an infantile crush on her teen counsellor, Joel (Mark Blum.) Larissa exerts her considerable allure to entangle the men in her life in webs of intrigue.

Mark Blum as Joel and Gretchen Mol as Larissa in “The Good Mother.”  Photo by Monique Carboni.

The pathologically self-absorbed Larissa in “The Good Mother,” willfully provokes a series of incidents that unsettle her peace and comfort. She victimizes Angus (Eric Nelsen), Joel’s troubled son, and leaves him bewildered. After a one-night stand, she calls upon the protective and equally befuddled Jonathan (Darren Goldstein) and then dismisses him.
Gretchen Mol as Larissa with Darren Goldstein as Jonathan in “The Good Mother.” Photo by Monique Carboni.

Larissa is a temptress and a user. She doesn’t seem to care that her schemes, like her troubled past, all seem to backfire. It’s easy to see her triumphant smirk from ten rows back as she draws in the long-ago jilted Buddy (Alfredo Narciso.)

Fans of HBOs Boardwalk Empire will be happy to again see Gretchen Mol in person. She acquits herself brilliantly in this psychological thriller.
Carolyn Cantor directs the superb cast in even and compelling performances. Volpe’s “The Good Mother,” under Scott Elliot’s direction is satisfyingly complex. 
For more information about “The Good Mother,” visit http://www.thenewgroup.org/