Posted in Cicely Tyson, Cuba Goodng Jr, family drama, Horton Foote, The trip to Bountful, Vanessa Williams

This "Trip" Is More Than Worth The Fare!

Cicely Tyson is Mrs. Carrie Watts in  Horton Foote’s“The Trip To Bountiful.” Photo by Joan Marcus 

Home can have a powerful pull on a body.

Horton Foote’s “The Trip To Bountful,” at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre through July 7, is a tale of yearning to return.

Cicely Tyson as Mrs. Carrie Watts with Condola Rashid as Thelma in the revival of “The Trip To Bountiful.”
Photo by Joan Marcus.

Mrs. Carrie Watts (Cicely Tyson) wants to go back, away from the bickering old woman she’s become. Her frivolous daughter-in-law Jessie Mae (Vanessa Williams) provokes her to be her worst self. Ludie (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), her son, is sweet and ineffectual. Mrs. Watts’ life with them in a two-room apartment in  has her longing for her childhood home in Bountiful. The farm town may as well have been named in irony; there is nothing left of it since it’s soil blighted by overuse. To Mrs. Watts, it is a wonderful memory she longs to revisit before she dies.

Vanessa Williams and Cuba Gooding, Jr. Photo by Joan Marcus.

“I think Ludie knows how I feel about getting back to Bountiful. Once when I was talking about something we did back there in the old days, he burst out crying. He was so overcome he had to leave the room,” she tells Thelma (Condola Rashid), a stranger who befriends her during her “escape” from Houston.

Cicely Tyson and Cuba Goofing, Jr. in “The Trip To Bountiful” in a photo by Joan Marcus.

In the interest of full disclosure, “The Trip To Bountiful” is a personal favorite among Horton Foote’s extensive repertoire. Foote’s first producd play dates back to 1941 with the off-Broadway production of  “Texas Town.” (A theme revisited in Primary Stages production of “Harrison, TX.”) Foote, who died in 2009, had a long and much-feted career, with many a Broadway hit; Foote was the recipient of numerous awards — including the one bestowed by the Academny of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Tom Wopat is charming in a small role as Sheriff . Photo by Joan Marcus.

This superb cast, anchored by the outstanding Cicely Tyson, with strong performances by Vanessa Williams and Cuba Gooding, Jr. bring Foote’s lovely tale to its fullest flower.

Tyson’s many awards over her illustrious career, including Emmys and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her Broadway appearances began in the late 1950s, as an understudy in “Jolly’s Progress,” and included the 1983 production of “The Corn is Green,” and a few performances (once as a host) at Tony celebrations over the years. There already is a lot of chatter suggesting she might win this year’s Tony!

You would not know it while watching Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s nuanced performance as Ludie that this is the Academy Award winner’s stage debut. On the other hand, Vanessa Williams, a multi-Grammy award winner, has plenty of experience acting in theater; in 2002, she got a Tony nod for her portrayal of the Witch in the revival of the Sondheim “Into The Woods.” Up-and-comer Condola Rashid,  Tony-nominated for her role in “Stick Fly” in 2012, doles out a pitch-perfect performance.

When we come to Bountiful, the scenic design by Jeff Cowie is bucolically pictorial, giving a pastoral beauty to the town of Mrs. Watts’ memories. For lovers of the technical, there is a suspended cross-section
of a travelling bus, under the supervision of Hudson Theatrical Associates.  In Houston, Cowie’s set describes the oppression of a cramped apartment, giving the stars a small space in which to work. The Watts’ ground floor is overladen with the darkened windows of neighbors above them. Note the nod to the color of the casting, and the times of the play, set in Texas in 1953, in the sign pointing to the White Waiting Room at the bus depot.

Under Michael Wilson’s direction, there isn’t a misstep in the journey of “The Trip To Bountiful.” Go and spend an evening travelling in the world Horton Foote has created.

For more information on “The Trip To Bountiful,” please go to The Trip To Bountiful on Broadway.


Posted in black child, couples, Crystal A. Dickinson, Eisa Davis, Kelly AuCoin, Kerry Butler, lesbian marrieds, parenthood, Tanya Barfield, white parents

Waiting for "The Call"

Kelly AuCoin, as Peter, Kerry Butler as Annie with Eisa Davis as Rebecca and Crystal A. Dickinson as Drea in  Tanya Barfield’s “The Call” at Playwrights Horizons. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

Couples desperate to be parents often use hope and sometimes each other in their efforts to conceive.

In Tanya Barfield’s new drama, “The Call,” in a joint Playwrights Horizons and Primary Stages production at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater extended to May 26th, the struggle to adopt just prolongs the agonies of a young married pair.

Annie (Kerry Butler) and Peter (Kelly AuCoin) suffer mightily for the want of a child. One can see the yearning in Peter’s eyes as they assemble a crib in their spare room.

Kerry Butler as Annie, Kelly AuCoin as Peter, Russell G. Jones as Alemu, Crystal A. Dickinson as Drea and Eisa Davis as Rebecca in Tanya Barfield’s “The Call.” Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

Over dinner with a couple, Drea (Crystal A. Dickinson) and Rebecca (Eisa Davis) who have just returned from Africa where they got married, share their expectations of a private adoption. When the birth mother backs out, Peter and Annie are unmoored. Peter presses Annie into seeking help from an agency. The fact that the child they hope to parent will come from Africa stirs up concerns from them and their friends and a neighbor.

Kelly AuCoin as Peter with Eisa Davis as Rebecca, Crystal A. Dickinson (standing) as Drea and Kerry Butler as Annie in “The Call.”  Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

“The Call,” directed by Leigh Silverman moves a bit slowly through the first act, but is grippingly transcendent in the second. The actors acquit themselves splendidly, with Russell G. Jones, as Alemu, an odd African neighbor of Peter and Annie’s, adding a poignant humor to the story. Crystal A. Dickinson stands out in the fine ensemble as Drea, the truth-talking girlfriend of Peter and Annie’s old friend Rebecca.

At its heart, “The Call” is a parlor drama, exploring relationships, race and responsibility in a well-written, intelligent play that is also thought-provoking and  likeable.

For more information on the joint production of “The Call,” visit www.PlaywrightsHorizons.org and www.PrimaryStages.org.

Posted in backstage documentary, drama, one man show, opera, weekend plans

What To Do?

So much to do, so little time. If this familiar refrain has you wondering how to plan your weekend, here are some suggestions from T&B On The Aisle:

Check out “ONE NIGHT STAND,” opening April 26 and playing through May 2nd at the Quad Cinema, a backstage documentary, chronicling the production of The 24 Hour Musicals in which teams of top-notch musical theater talent have 24 hours to create, cast, rehearse and put on a live benefit show. See Cheyenne Jackson, Richard Kind, Rachel Dratch (among other performers) and directors like Sam Gold, along with writers and composers like Jonathan Marc Sherman and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

A scene from “ONE NIGHT STAND”


The pressure cooker environment behind the scenes as 4 short musicals come to life was echoed by the crews behind the  camera as they plunged into  a sleepless shoot. Produced by Elisabeth Sperling and Trish Dalton with the assistance of 10 shooters, four production assistants, and three editors, “ONE NIGHT STAND” is a wonder of improvisation and inspiration.

Rachel Dratch and Richard Kind in  a scene from “ONE  NIGHT STAND.”


Visit www.onenightstandthemovie.com to learn more about “ONE NIGHT STAND.”

The Wild Project, a production and venue for emerging artists and new theater, film and visual arts, has on-going programming to entertain and enlighten. Catch Kara Manning’s “SLEEPING ROUGH,” through April 27th, for instance in which an American woman spews graffitti of discontent all over London. Next, “ALONDRA WAS HERE” by Chisa Huthcinson, takes the stage, from May 4th to the 18th, with a tale of politics and brutality.

For more information about these and other productions at The Wild Project, visit www.thewildproject.com.

You think you can dance goes on parade with the Shakedown Dance Collective, a gang of 55 people of all shapes and sizes, ages and aspirations, under the tutelage of professional dancers Jamie Benson and Deborah Lohse

Deborah Lohse. Photo by Peter Sperling

 The Shakedown consists of weekly 2 hour dance rehearsals that prepare would be dancers for performances throughout New York City.Lohse and Benson have declared Sunday, April 28th “International Dance Day” with a Gala at Dixon Place. On May 18th, join Shakedown for “DANCE PARADE NEW YORK,” from 1pm to 7pm from Broadway to Tompkins Square Park.

This is what a Shakedown class looks like! Photo by Bonny Kahane.


For more infomration about Shakedown Dance Collective, please visit www.danceparade.org and go to 
http://7thannualinternationaldanceday.eventbrite.com/# for tickets for the International Dance Day Gala.

“I AM AN OPERA” in a photo by Tim Hailand.

“I AM AN OPERA,” at Dixon Place through April 27th, takes us from a large crowd to a one man show, in which Joseph Keckler, writer/performer, sings arias of lament and exultation. “I AM AN OPERA” details Keckler’s life as a portrait of the artist taunted by demons, tripping on hallucigens, and  suffering through day jobs.

Joseph Keckler in performance. Photo by Gerry Visco.

 To learn more about “I AM AN OPERA,” please visit dixonplace.org.

Posted in Berry Gordy, bio-musical, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Motown Records, Smokey Robinson, The Jackson 5, The Supremes, The Temptations

"Dancing In The Streets" at Motown The Musical: It’s Not Just Berry Gordy’s Memories

There was a time when Detroit rolled out great big cars, and an even bigger sound. The music of the Motor City was humming in everyone’s ears, and playing “with a brand new beat” on and off the Billboard charts.

Berry Gordy’s memoirs turned into “Motown The Musical,” now at the Lunt-Fontaine Theatre,  based on Gordy’s book To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown, are condensed to bring us up to the 25th Motown Reunion in 1983.  His Hitsville USA studios brought an exciting new formula to
pop music. Motown records was modeled after the assembly lines of Detroit automobile factories where Gordy had worked.

Berry Gordy, Jr.’s (Brandon Victor Dixon) glam vision added lavish costumes and complicated dance moves to the “short stories,” as he put, in the songs his writers created. Gordy gave each of his groups their own persona– “The Temptations,” “The Vandellas,” with Martha Reeves (Saycon Sengbloh) at the helm “The Supremes,” with Diana Ross (Valisia LeKae) and Smokey Robinson’s (Charl Brown) “Miracles.”

Brandon Victor Dixon, center, as Berry Gordy Jr., with cast. Photo by Joan Marcus

“Motown The Musical” is a cover of many of the great hits Gordy’s studio produced over the years. With success came disappointments. The Supremes’ songwriting team of Holland, (Daniel J. Watts as Eddie), Dozier (Julius Thomas III as Lamont), Holland, (Eric LaJuan Summers as Brian) were among the first of many defections from the Motown labels. As soon as the acts Gordy cultivated gained popularity, a big studio swept in to gobble them up.

Sydney Morton as Florence Ballard, Valisia LeKae as Diana Ross and Ariana DeBose as Mary Wilson — aka The Supremes with Brandon Victor Dixon as Berry Gordy, Jr. Photo by Joan Marcus

Berry Gordy’s friend, Smokey Robinson, remained loyal, writing and recording many of the famous tunes from Motown. His early chart-topping songs was “My Guy,” which gave Mary Wells early success, soon followed  by the iconic “My Girl.”

“Motown The Musical” is part revue, part Awards Tribute show, and part an evening at the Palladium. With the grandiloquent flair Gordy demonstrated as an impresario, “Motown The Musical” is visually splendid. The choreographic numbers, by Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams, from the celebratory dance after Joe Louis’s victory bout in 1938 to the smart-stepping moves of the Temptations, put a lively time-stamp on each scene. David Korins, sets, and Esosa, costumes, add their eye-catching verisimilitude to the timeline.

Was Motown an integral part of the civil rights movement? Or did the Motown moment coincide with great and necessary changes in the social fabric of America? Gordy did not intend to be a force for equality; he just wanted to make music that would move everyone. His talent for making money and spending it was legendary. Gordy’s skill in business meant he could cover the costs of his extravagances. Gordy fell in love with one of his players, and sacrificed a great deal to make Diana Ross a big star. With this part of the tale, “Motown The Musical” could be seen as a kind of “A Star is Born-Lite.”
Its story line is a little weak, but its production values are high and very stylish.

(There’s more review at http://www.vevlynspen.com/2013/05/gordy-tell-his-story-his-way-in-motown.html.)
For more information on “Motown The Musical,” visit http://www.motownthemusical.com/.

Posted in 2-hander, Brits Off Broadway, bullying, David Harrower, nuclear testing, Scots Festival

"Good With People"

Andrew Scott-Ramsay and Blythe Duff star in David Harrower’s “Good With People,” launching the 2013 Brits Off Broadway festival at 59E59 Theaters. Photos by Carol Rosegg


Having a nuclear test site in your town might put a damper on tourism. Helensburgh, Scotland has been made relatively desolate. 

People come, but just for day trips, as Helen Hughes (Blythe Duff) laments in “Good With People,” David Harrower’s play enjoying a NY premiere at 59E59 Theaters, through April 21st.
Helen works at the Seaview Hotel where Evan Bold (Andrew Scott-Ramsay) is one of the few guests. Evan, who’s been in Qatar and Peshawar as a charge nurse for many years, has returned for his parents’ remarriage.

Blythe Duff  and Andrew Scott-Ramsay star in David Harrower’s “Good With People,” launching the 2013 Brits Off Broadway festival at 59E59 Theaters. Photos by Carol Rosegg

Evan and Helen share an unpleasant history since Evan, out of loyalty to his dad’s job at the naval facility, was one of the boys from the base who bullied her son Jack after he protested nuclear testing.
The actors are both very good story tellers, holding the attention, despite a minimal story to tell.
Puns and misapprehensions provide some modicum of amusement in “Good With People,”
but Harrower’s very short script seems a bit self-indulgent. Long pauses seem like superfluous dramatic tics in a play that is just an hour long.

“Good With People” is the Scots part of 59E59’s annual Brits Off Broadway festival. It is produced by Traverse Theatre Company and Datum PPaines Plough.
For more information about “Good With People,” and Brits Off Broadway, please visit 59e59.org..
Posted in ball, ballgowns, Cinderella, fairytale, gowns, Harriet Harris, Laura Osnes, Peter Bartlett, Santino Fontana, TV version with Julie Andrews, Victoria Clark, William Ivey Long

Waltzing With The Prince: "R+H’s Cinderella" On Bway!

Little girls dream of dressing in gowns and looking like a princess, and, as they get a little older, of charming princes who can whisk them off to a castle.

The fantasy in “Rodger’s + Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” in an open run at the Broadway Theatre, is about transformation and aspiration.

Poor Cinderella (Laura Osnes) leads a terrible life, toiling at thankless tasks for her thankless stepmother, Madame (Harriet Harris) and ne’er-do-well stepsister Charlotte (Ann Harada) and the nicer Gabrielle (Marla Mindelle.) She dreams of escape, “In My Own Little Corner,” and goes back to work mending and cleaning.

Laura Osnes as Cinderella and female ensemble. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Douglas Carter Beane sees in  Cinderella both the hopes for betterment and the determination to make a better world in his script adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein original TV production. His take is perhaps just a little too up-to-the-minute. Or maybe, it contributes to making “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” so much more than a made for TV version of a timeless fairytale, even if that 1957 live broadcast featured Julie Andrews in the heyday of television. There is a shiny sort of do-good, feel-good quality to Beane’s rescripting, and to the lyrics he and David Chase have added to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s original.

Santino Fontana as Prince Topher and Laura Osnes as Cinderella at the ball.  Photo by Carol  Rosegg.

Laura Osnes, whose ascent to Broadway was as the winner in a TV contest for her role in  “Grease,” has proven to be the quintessential stage actor. She is also more than a made for TV star. Since being “discovered,” she’s done yeomen’s work in the much-maligned “Bonnie and Clyde,” subbed seamlessly for Kelli O’Hare as Nellie Forbush in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific,” played Hope Harcourt in “Anything Goes.”  She’s performed at Carnegie Hall and in concerts at 54 Below. In short, Laura Osnes is a genuine Broadway actor.

Cinderella’s desires and dreams resonate as they always have. She’s just a little pluckier and gutsier than you might remember her. Her Prince Topher (Santino Fontana) is a little more evolved and sensitive, too.

Santino Fontana is delicious as Prince Topher. Ann Harada gets to sing one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most wonderful anthems, “The Stepsister’s Lament” with a touch of irony and innocence. Marla Mindelle as the stepsister who falls in love with a rabble-rousing poor boy, Jean-Michel (Greg Hildreth) is endearing, as is Greg Hildreth, in an endearing subplot. Victoria Clark makes a sweet Fairy Godmother, Marie although she looks a bit uncomfortable during her stint in the air.

What would Cinderella’s trip to the ball be without exquisite costumes? We don’t have to imagine anything so dire, since William Ivey Long gives us glamourous gowns worthy of a fairytale and happy endings. Anna Louizos’s sets are also gorgeous and imaginatively rendered. Paul Huntley’s headdresses are extravagant enough to make hair and wigs a character. Mark Brokaw ‘s direction keeps “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” moving at a lively pace.

“Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” will make your wish for a captivating evening come true.
Sweet dreams. (Visit VP for more on “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella.”)

For more information about “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” please visit http://www.cinderellaonbroadway.com/