Posted in 2-hander, air force, also a film, army airmen, autobiographical, based on a movie, based on a real world conflict, based on a true story or event and historical documents, based on true events, Bryce Pinkham, carpet bombing, comedy about a serious subject, dark comedy drama, drama based on real events, duped by love, ensemble acting, family, fathers and sons, holiday show, memoir, memories, musical theatre, musicals and dramas, narration, new work, Off or Off-Off Broadway Transfer, offbeat work, parents and children, play, play with music, Roundabout Theatre Company, serious comedy, storytelling, stylistic, the damaged and hurting, theater, Vietnam background, war

Legacies of war

bycarolrosegg
Jon Hoche, Raymond Lee, Paco Tolson (center), Jennifer Ikeda, and Samantha Quan. Photo © Carol Rosegg

History can sometimes revel in a very personal dynamic.

For instance, those of us who lived through and joined in protests against the Vietnam War may not share the viewpoint of the main character in Qui Nguyen’s Vietgone, currently playing at MTC’s City Center Stage I through December 4th.

Quang (Raymond Lee) was a pilot in the South Vietnamese armed forces. He was trained in the United States. He saw the North Vietnamese as a genuine threat to life and liberty and welcomed the help of American soldiers in the struggle.

Vietgone is a fast-paced kind-of-multi-media excursion into the hero’s and heroine’s, Tong (Jennifer Ikeda), survival. They meet at a state-side refugee camp where Tong and her mother (Samantha Quan, in a number of roles) have come after the fall of Saigon.

The piece is, and isn’t, narrated by the Playwright (Paco Tolson, also playing several people), who is commemorating his parents’ story. There are rapped love songs, (original music by Shane Rettig) motorcycles, a roadtrip, and a bromance– all trappings to some extent of the era portrayed in the plot.

For the most part, Vietgone is entertaining, interesting, unusual in structure, and well presented. There is room for some cuts here and there. The cast, under May Adrales’ direction, and staging, with scenic designs by Tim Mackabee and projection design by Jared Mezzocchi, are excellent.

In other subscription house news from our household:

Roundabout’s Love, Love, Love (reviewed earlier and playing through 12/18) can make us feel guilty first for Brexit and now Trump as it portrays boomers resting in reactionary comfort.

Over at Studio 54 througfh January 15, 2017, Roundabout has mounted a vehicle for nostalgia. Holiday Inn, with no irony whatsoever, cries out for Mickey and Judy. It is well-served by the cast on hand, however, and a pleasantly tuneful production makes for a great afternoon at the movies, er theater.Bryce Pinkham and Corbin Bleu are the friends and dancing partners, along with Megan Sikora, and Lora Lee Gayer who lead the ensemble in song and dance.

Heisenberg Georgie- Mary-Louise Parker and Alex-- Denis Arndt; Set Designer Mark Wendland; Costume Designer Michael Krass; Lighting Designer Austin R. Smith; Original Music and Sound Designer David Van Tieghem. Photo © Joan Marcus
Heisenberg
Georgie- Mary-Louise Parker and Alex– Denis Arndt;
Set Designer Mark Wendland; Costume Designer Michael Krass;
Lighting Designer Austin R. Smith;
Original Music and Sound Designer David Van Tieghem. Photo © Joan Marcus

MTC gives us Heisenberg at its Broadway venue, the Friedman Theatre through December 11th. Why Heisenberg? The play, so well-acted by Denis Arndt and Mary-Louise Parker as to have one puzzling over the quantum physics of it name, is an enjoyable two-hander. It’s gimmicky staging notwithstanding, the dynamic of the drama is captivating. Heisenberg is a sweet-crazy story, written by Simon Stephens, the pen behind The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Heisenberg was a transfer from Off-Off, and as such had some buzziness surrounding it.Director Mark Brokaw elicits strong performances from both his actors. Parker, who unleashes the odd-ball in her character in little bursts, is fun to watch.Arndt’s charm reveals how a pent-up man can suddenly be both impetuous and child-like. So, back to the title: Heisenberg has an underlying if small principle of uncertainty that you will likely enjoy.

Posted in A Gentleman's Guide Audra McDonald, Bryan Cranston, Bryce Pinkham, Carole King, Hugh Jackman, Idina Menzel, Jefferson Mays, Jessie Mueller, Kelli O'Hara, Neil Patrick Harris, The Tony Awards, Tyne Daly

Give yourself a BEST for a great Tony Ceremony

(L-R) Jefferson Mays as Henry D’Ysquith, Jennifer Smith, and Bryce Pinkham as Monty Navarro in a scene from 2014’s Tony winning Best Musical “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the Walter Kerr Theater.
Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

The 2014 Tony Awards show walks away with a BIG Best! Imaginative, creative, entertaining–this was a Tony telecast that reflects the best of the theater it is honoring.

The June 8th broadcast of the 68th Tony Award presentation showcased future Broadway, and shows not in contention like “Cabaret” and a song from the 10th anniversary of “Wicked.”

Hugh Jackman’s skills and charm were so effervescently on display at the ceremonies. He sings, he dances, he patters, he flirts, he raps, Hugh Jackman is really a superhero. We are grateful that while he kicks butt as Wolverine, his heart belongs to Broadway, and on June 8th, he gave it full-out.

The deserving Jessie Mueller won as Best Actress in a musical for her portrayal of Carole King in “Beuatiful…” and had a chance to sing with King at the Tonys! I did not see this award coming, not because Jessie Mueller is not terrific, but because I was self-bamboozled into believing that “If/Then” would not be left out to dry. My prediction for a win for Idina Menzel did not come to pass, and I was also wrong about “Act One” getting the Best Play win.

“If/Then,” despite Menzel’s fans, will probably not survive their complete lack of Tony cred. “Act One” has announced it’s final week closing on June 15th, despite the set designer Beowulf Boritt’s 2014 Tony Award for Best Scenic Design of a Play.

During the broadcast, “Bullets Over Broadway,” which also had no wins, and was not nominated in the Best Musical category, and “Rocky” (ditto) each had their shining moments showing off their best stuff on the big Radio City Music Hall stage. “If/Then” depended on a solo from Idina Menzel to pitch their show, and I’m afraid that wasn’t compelling enough to give it the oomph it needs to keep on chugging on the Great White Way, though they are still selling through October 12th.

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”— no surprise there with 10 nominations– got the big prize: It is officially the Best Musical of 2014 with “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” getting Best for Revival of a Musical.
Neil Patrick Harris, amazing as always, won as Best Actor in a Musical.

Also unsurprising was Bryan Cranston’s win for Best Actor in a Play for his performance as LBJ in Robert Schenkkan’s “All The Way,” which edged out the aforementioned “Act One” as Best Play of 2014.

Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” still has not won a Tony, and the Best Play Revival went to “A Raisin in the Sun.” Sophie Okonedo, playing Ruth Younger in the revival, won as Best Featured Actress in a play, an award that Audra McDonald got in the 2004 revival.  McDonald won her 6th Tony on June 8th for embodying Billie Holliday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.” 

Posted in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Bryce Pinkham, Jefferson Mays, Kind Hearts and Coronets, lyrics and book by Robert L. Freedman, music and lyrics by Ste ven Lutvak

Murder Most Delightfully Abominable

What would you do if you discovered that you were an heir to a distinguished family? One that had denied your existence and birthright and driven you and your mother into poverty?

The answer in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” at the Walter Kerr Theatre in an open run,  is to have our disinherited hero kill his way to the top.

Jane Carr as Miss Shingle and Bryce Pinkham as Monty Navarro in a scene from “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the Walter Kerr Theater. “You’re a D’Ysquith,” Miss Shingle informs Monty. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

In a world in which motives for murder are so often random, it’s refreshing to see how carefully planned Monty Navarro’s (Bryce Pinkham) ascension is. All the mayhem he bestows is sweetly done, but Monty finds he has a knack for it. Here’s a young man who finds purpose and a new skill.

Joanna Glushak as Lady Eugenia, Lauren Worsham as Phoebe D’Ysquith, Bryce Pinkham as Monty Navarro, Lisa O’Hare as Sibella Hallward, and Jefferson Mays as Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith, “Looking down the barrel of a gun” from “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the Walter Kerr Theater. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

“A Gentleman’s Guide..” has a book (and lyrics) by Robert L. Freedman, based like the Alec Guiness film,“Kind Hearts and Coronets” on Roy Horniman’s Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal. The music, and additional lyrics, by Steven Lutvak, that accompanies all this silliness is superbly light and airy. The lyrics  match the froth of the score inserting clever plot points  to move the story along.

The relatives Monty is despatching, improvising as he goes, (all played by Jefferson Mays) are a varied lot of upper crust fops, toffs, fools, and snobs.

Jefferson Mays as Henry D’Ysquith, Jennifer Smith, and Bryce Pinkham
as Monty Navarro in a scene from “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”
 at the Walter Kerr Theater. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

Bryce Pinkham is an amiably baby-faced murderer. He sticks to the spirit of the script executing his killing spree with a wink and an air of surprise. Jefferson Mays, in turn, is all bluster as one high-toned relative, gently ridiculous as another, always clearily enjoying himself. The cast led by Pinkham and Mays are as bright as a new penny.

There are three other stand-outs in this fine ensemble. Lisa O’Hare as Monty’s love-interest  Sibella Hallward is fetchingly coquettish, while Lauren Worsham as Monty’s cousin Phoebe D’Ysquith is beautifully eccentric. Both women have wonderful voices, and excellent comic delivery. The third is Joanna Glushak who grandly steps out of the chorus as Lady Eugenia, Adalbert D’Ysquith’s dyspeptic spouse.

Lisa O’Hare as Sibella Hallward and Bryce Pinkham as Monty
Navarro in a scene from “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”
at the Walter Kerr  Theater. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

Deftly directed by Darko Tresnjak, the British import is as pleasanly insubstantial. The sets, by Alexander Dodge, feature a puppet stage inset on which mostly the indoor scenes are played; like the book, music and lyrics, the set is cleverly done and there are effects that amuse. Despite all the wit and talent in “A Gentleman’s Guide..,” the play is a trifle, a fluffy, flimsy and enjoyable romp.

Do you ever wonder whywe find murder, while we decry the crime, such satisfying entertainment. In “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” it is the pleasure of watching the underdog get even and get away with it. “A Gentleman’s Guide…” is pure escapism, a beach read for a winter’s eve.

Please visit agentlemansguidebroadway.com to find out more about “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.”