Posted in Act One, Andrea Martin, James Lapine, Lincoln Center Theater, Moss Hart, Santino Fontana, theater about theater, Tony nominee, Tony Shalhoub

Let’s begin with "Act One"

Tony Shalhoub as Moss Hart, Andrea Martin as Aunt Kate and Santino Fontana as Moss Hart in LCT’s “Act One,” adapted by James Lapine from the memoir by Moss Hart. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Each of us is the hero of our own story. In “Act One,” Moss Hart may have mythologized his ascent in the theater. Cut him some slack, his memoir has been an inspiration to generations of aspiring theater-folk. James Lapine, who also directs, has turned Hart’s book into a thoroughly theatrical event. 

“Act One,” at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater through June 15th, everything as it should be. From the brilliant multi-layered set by Beowulf Boritt to the superb ensemble and smart direction, “Act One” sings with aspiration and 
success.

Tony Shalhoub as George S. Kaufman and Santino Fontana as Moss Hart in a scene from “Act One.”
Photo by Joan Marcus
As James Lapine’s “Act One” opens, Moss Hart (Tony Shalhoub) looks back on his life and career. His Aunt Kate (Andrea  Martin) comes home from the theater and argues with Moss’s father, Barnett (Shalhoub again) over money, while Moss’s mother Lillie (Mimi Lieber) placates their borders.  Aunt Kate and young Moss (Matthew Schechter, who later also plays Moss’s younger brother Bernie) hatch a plan for Moss to skip school and join her at Thursday matinees. Schooling is a moot issue, since by the time Moss is sixteen, he is apprenticed to a furrier, a job he hates. Instead Moss (now played by Santiino Fontana) makes his own way to Broadway and the work for which he yearns. clerking for theatrical booking agent Augustus Pitou (Will LeBow.)
Chuck Cooper as Max Siegel (one of several roles he undertakes) and Bob Stillman as Sam Harris (he also plays other parts) and Company in a scene from “Act One.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

Hart’s first play, written in 1925, when Hart was just 21, to help fill Pitou’s road circuit, “The Beloved Bandit” flopped in Chicago. In the meantime, Hart was directing small theater companies all over the New York area,  from the Borscht Belt to New Jersey. By 1930, “Once In A Lifetime,” co-written with George S. Kaufman (Shalhoub), and Hart’s first theatrical success, opened on Broadway, after many fits and starts out of town. Hart and Kaufman would continue to work together on many a show after this original collaboration. 

Andrea Martin– like Tony Shalhoub, who is a nominee as Best Leading Actor in a Play for his work here– adeptly handles three parts. She is Aunt Kate, eccentric theater producer Frieda Fishbein, and Kaufman’s wife Beatrice. Shalhoub and Martin each give distinct and nuanced lives to each of their characters. In this cast, you risk looking like a slouch if you only have one role to play. Santino Fontana does just that, and he’s outstanding as Hart at his youthful prime. 

“Act One” is a perfectly beautiful production.

To learn more about “Act One,” please visit www.lct.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/