Monday, March 27, 2017
Review: Hilarious parody of Broadway’s great musicals at Women’s Theater Company
The Women’s Theater Company is currently presenting Musical of Musicals (The Musical), written by Joanne Bogart (lyrics) and Eric Rockwell (music), The production is billed as “a hilarious satire of musical theatre.” Guess what? It is…hilarious, it is…a satire, it is…a parody of the classics of musical theatre. If these composers and their shows mean nothing to you----Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Kander and Ebb, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Jerry Herman, then you may fail to appreciate the clever, funny parody presented in The Musical of Musicals (The Musicals)
One of our best area directors (and choreographers) Lauren Moran Mills has produced a truly superior production of The Musical of Musicals (The Musicals)…truly the equal to the best of “Off-Broadway.” Where has this musical gem been hiding? (more later). The creators (and original NY cast members), Joanne Bogart and Eric Rockwell, tell the story of the young ingénue who is constantly repeating to her villainous, lecher of a landlord (aren’t they all?) the classic line of a struggling actress (aren’t they all) ‘I can’t pay the rent!’ The sad tale, always with a happy ending, is told five times via an oh so clever parody of the five composers.
In each, 15 to 20 minute, segment we have four characters, the aforementioned ingénue and landlord, plus the young leading man and the older woman. The cast is wonderful; the young actress is nicely played by the fine voiced, attractive newcomer Jenna Rose (Ravenda); the young man Billy, the hero of the piece, is another newcomer, Zachary Mazouat. He is perfect in this role of the imperfect, slightly bumbly, suitor who charms his way to victory (translation: He gets the girl).
Now we come to the two professionals in the cast: the landlord, played with considerable gusto, by another area favorite, Scott McGowan. Scott nails the dastardly villain in his own parody of the baddie from the melodrama The Damsel in Distress. Billed as the Matron, or older woman, is the exceptionally talented, Patricia Durante. Barbara Krajkowski, a certified NJ theater treasure, Artistic Director of the WTC, first introduced us to Patricia several seasons ago in Enchanted April. Since then she has earned ‘standing ovations’ on stages throughout the NY, NJ and PA region. We bestowed a New Jersey Footlights ‘Best Actress’ award for her Always, Patsy (Patsy Cline), also, produced by Barbara and the WTC. Her broad impersonations of Marlene Dietrich and Gloria Swanson are comedy gems.Both Scott and Patricia display great ability to perform with tongues firmly planted in their cheeks. Their obvious pleasure in these roles contributes immensely to the fun.
Now, what is a musical without music? The musical director and lone musician is Deborah Martin. Her piano performance deserves its own round of applause.
The unique fun, for many, in this play is the recognition of the shows and tunes that are being parodied. Thus, we will avoid the temptation to burden you with too much, pleasure robbing, detail. This is a wonderful way to spend two hours. Cast and crew have much to be proud of. Maybe, the best thing I can say to entice you to share in the enjoyment at the little theater in Parsippany, is to reveal that my wife has been on Facebook and the phone sharing her pleasure. Oh yes, you will love the bonus finale.
Reviewed by Rick Busciglio Sunday March 26, 2017
Credits: Cast: Patricia Durante, Scott McGowan, Jenna Rose, Zach Mazouat. Crew: Producing Artistic Director Barbara Krajkowski, Director/Choreographer Lauren Moran Mills, Musical Director Deborah Martin, Stage Manager Regina Novicky Costumes Frances Harrison, and Props Erica Stepper.
The musical premiered off-Broadway on December 16, 2003 at the York Theatre at St. Mark's and ran through October 2, 2004, for a total of 194 performances and 14 previews. (It closed on January 25, 2004 and re-opened on May 24, 2004.) The production was directed and choreographed by Pamela Hunt and featured Joanne Bogart, Craig Fols, Lovette George, and Eric Rockwell. The production was nominated for the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical (George), Outstanding Director of a Musical (Hunt), and Outstanding Lyrics (Bogart) and Outstanding Music (Rockwell).
The musical re-opened off-Broadway on February 10, 2005 at the New World Stages V (Dodger Stages) and ran through November 13, 2005. The same director and cast were in the production.
The musical has been performed in regional theater in the United States, in Canberra (Australia - 2009 and Feb 2010), in Canada, and on London's West End. The London production ran from March 31, 2006 through April 22, 2006 at the Sound Theatre.
The Musical of Musicals (The Musical) runs until April 2- Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 3 pm. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for seniors. To purchase tickets online please visit www.womenstheater.org or call 973 335 3038.
The Women’s Theater Company is located at the Parsippany Playhouse at 1130 Knoll Road, Lake Hiawatha, NJ. For GPS driving directions, please enter the town of Boonton, 07005.
ABOUT WOMEN’S THEATER COMPANY:
The Women’s Theater Company’s mission is to provide a fertile environment for the advancement of professional women theater artists and to provide quality theater for the community at large. Through their main stage, educational outreach, and new works development programs, the Women’s Theater Company supports the development of new women artists, promotes new works in the American theater, and provides entertaining and enriching productions for growing audiences. Women’s Theater Company is located at The Parsippany Playhouse, 1130 Knoll Road, Parsippany, NJ. For more information contact 973 335 3038, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Women’s Theater Company is proud to be a member of the New Jersey Theater Alliance. Funding for the Women’s Theater Company has been made possible in part by funds for the Morris Arts through the New Jersey State Council on the Art/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Women’s Theater is proud to be a member of the Parsippany Area Chamber of Commerce.
photo l-R: Patricia Durante* Zach Mazouat, Jenna Rose (Ravenda), and Scott McGowan* photo by Lauren Moran Mills* Equity Member
Monday, February 27, 2017
Review:Ken Ludwig’s ‘Moon Over Buffalo’
As a dramatic genre, farce is a delicate thing. Oh, it is loud, with lots of slamming doors and over-the-top characters and performances, but if the actors don’t hit their marks with precision or the comedic timing is a nanosecond off, the entire enterprise can collapse in a confusing—and decidedly unfunny—heap.
Luckily for us, director Tom Frascatore and the talented folks at the Chatham Community Players nail the genre in their recent production of Moon Over Buffalo by none other than the farce-meister par excellence, Ken Ludwig. Adding to our delight is that this is a play about the theater—one that reveals the back-biting pettiness and feet of clay exhibited some of the people we revere the most: celebrities!
In the summer of 1953, former Broadway stars George and Charlotte Hay have taken their run-down touring company on the road to Buffalo, New York, where they intend to produce Cyrano de Bergerac and Private Lives in repertory, all the while grumbling about missed Hollywood opportunities. With the news that noted Hollywood director Frank Capra is coming to hire the couple for his swashbuckling Scarlet Pimpernel epic, their fortunes seem to be looking up, but their marital and professional relationships are endangered by the news of George’s infidelity with the company’s ingénue. The entire Hay family—including scornful mother-in-law Ethel, determinedly practical daughter Rosalind and Rosalind’s ex-boyfriend/actor/company manager Paul (right, Tess Ammerman and Thom Boyer)—work overtime to get sloppy drunk George into his Cyrano hat and nose…or is it his Elyot Chase smoking jacket? Mistaken identities, foiled plot lines, pratfalls, slamming doors aplenty and backstage shenanigans ensue in this screwball comic farce and love letter to the theater and the larger-than-life personalities who inhabit the world of the theater. (Above: Stacey Petricha and David Romankow)
Tom Frascatore’s frenetic, frantic direction manages to corral and control the mayhem occurring onstage, without dampening the merriment. On Roy Pancirov and Bob Lukasik’s terrific set, decorated by artist Andrea Sickler and featuring five doors just waiting to be slammed, an octet of very talented actors perform in one the best of Chatham Player productions I’ve seen in years.
As the Hayses, David Romankow and Stacey Petricha really shine, from their very first appearance dueling across and around the stage to their final embrace. Romankow is perfect as the conceited has-been George, content to act even regionally, in love with his wife but not above basking in the adoration (and sexual attentions) of the blonde, buxom ingénue Eileen (played with appropriate blowsiness by a pouty Julie Anne Nolan). He portrays perhaps the best drunk (right) I’ve ever encountered, stumbling around the stage, broadly emoting while recalling lines by Shakespeare and falling over unconscious. He’s well matched by Petricha as Charlotte; ambitious, jealous, vindictive to the core, she more than he yearns for a film career. Her anxiety at watching it slip away is palpable and sympathetic. Frantically, she attempts to sober George up so he can go onstage, efforts that are undermined by a serious (and hilarious) mistake made by her deaf mother Ethel, played with a combination of delicious cluelessness and curmudgeonly irritation by Meryl Nadell (left, with Brendan Scullin as Howard).
Taking charge of the chaos is the couple’s practical daughter Rosalind, who has sought a career outside the theater and who has returned to introduce her television weatherman fiancé Howard to her parents. Tess Ammerman is all business and level-headedness as Roz, dragged back into a world she’s rejected and doing yeoman’s job to keep her parents from veering off the rails. Brendan Scullin is side-splitting as Howard, a literal bundle of nerves who can’t even speak his own name without stuttering, clearly a fish out of water in this world. His attempts to impress George go resoundingly and hysterically awry. Rounding out the stellar cast are Thom Boyer as Rosalind’s former beau Paul, now tasked with managing this repertory company and called into action to sub for an actor who has quit, and Lewis Decker, who provides a modicum of reason as the couple’s lawyer Richard, come to “rescue” Charlotte from this crazy life. (Below L-R: Petricha, Romankow, Decker, Scullin and Nolan)
Costumes by Christina Kirk and hair and makeup by Nicole Ribeiro aptly convey both the historical period and accoutrements of a stage production. Set decoration and props by Tish Lum add to the effect, as do Joe DeVico’s sound design and lighting by John Latona and James Peterson. Steve Ruskin is to be commended on his fight choreography, which encompasses much more than just the skillful duel that introduces the principals.
For many theatergoers, farce is an acquired taste. But I love it, so I approached the Chatham Playhouse this past stormy Saturday night with great anticipation. I am glad to say that my expectations were rewarded—in spades! So if you need a respite from contentious news, get on over to the Chatham Playhouse for a good laugh. It’s the perfect antidote to controversy and debate. (Right: David Romankow attempts to strangle Thom Boyer)
Moon Over Buffalo will be performed at the Chatham Playhouse, 23 N. Passaic Ave., Chatham, through March 11. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM. For information and tickets, call the box office at 973.635.7363 or visit www.chathamplayers.org online.
Reviewed by Ruth Ross (njartsmaven,com)
Review: ‘BAD JEWS’ A Delectable Dish At GEORGE STREET PLAYHOUSE
By Guest Reviewer Ruth Ross (NJARTSMAVEN.COM)
The death of a beloved relative and the distribution of his or her possessions can wreak havoc on familial relationships, causing ruptures that often fester for decades. The havoc is exacerbated when the possessions include historical artifacts, especially those related to the Holocaust.
If the thought of such squabbling makes you uncomfortable, brace yourself for the antics onstage in George Street Playhouse’s current offering, Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon. Originally produced at the Roundabout Theatre in New York, the play’s title has a double meaning. On one hand, the characters rate their “Jewishness” relative to their investment in and familiarity with the culture and religion; on the other hand, over the course of 90 minutes, we get to witness some very bad behavior in all its awful glory.
The source of contention among the three Haber-Feygenbaum cousins, brothers Liam and Jonah and cousin Daphna, is the gold chai (the Hebrew letters for “life”) necklace worn by “Poppy,” their very recently deceased grandfather for much of his long life. Daphna believes she should get it because she, after all, she the “best” Jew of the three, changing her name from Diana to the Hebrew Daphna, spending time in Israel with plans to wed a man she met there, and able to read and recite the Hebrew prayers. She’s adamant and girded for war. Her nemesis Liam (Hebrew name Shlomo, which he doesn’t care to divulge) is the oldest of the three; he wants the chai to use it to propose to his girlfriend, just as Poppy used it to propose to their grandmother. He’s arrogant, sure that he deserves the necklace—in short, a worthy opponent for Daphna. As for Jonah, he doesn’t want to be involved. He doesn’t claim any rights to the chai and would rather remove himself from the ensuing battle. Watching all this unfold is the blonde shiksa Melody, who is as uncomfortable as we are and a bit bewildered at the verbal assault taking place.
Under the taut direction of Jessica Stone (in her debut at GSP), the quartet of very talented young actors moves the action steadily, inexorably to a surprising denouement. Laura Lapidus (Daphna) and Alec Silberblatt (Liam) literally own the stage; their huge personas spill over into the playhouse auditorium, and their quivering outrage makes the rafters shake. They are worthy opponents: Lapidus, perfect as the loud, judgmental, opinionated, motor-mouth, “poorer” middle cousin; Silberblatt as the entitled, narcissistic, equally obnoxious scion of the extended family, who steamrolls the others, especially his younger brother. He is a bundle of nerves from the moment he enters the swanky Upper West Side studio apartment (designed by Charlie Corcoran) that serves as the battlefield. Albeit filled with two air mattresses and a pull-out sofa, it is precisely the type of pad purchased by millionaire parents for their offspring (It’s down the hass from the Habers).
But don’t sell the two quieter characters short. Amos VanderPoel (right, with Silberblatt) portrays Jonah as a schlub of the first order, his mumbling discomfort palpable as he tries to avoid being drawn into the whirlwind around him. Physically, he looks as though he’d rather be anywhere else but here, often shrinking into a corner or lurking near the door to the hallway as though he’d like to escape. As Melody, collateral damage in this brawl, Maddie Jo Landers’ cluelessness is rather endearing. Wide-eyed, spilling personal details (unwittingly giving Daphna ammo to use against Liam), naive, her character is clearly out of her element; her exchange with Daphna over her ethnic origins is a tour de force of naiveté vs. wily snarkiness. And when called upon to sing something “operatic to” calm Daphna, her failure may be epic (think Florence Foster Jenkins), but our sympathy for her increases with each note!
Lest you think Bad Jews is one long, relentless rant, there are some funny and tender moments when the cousins reveal their love for each other and their family. They know so well the story of the chai’s survival through Poppy’s internment in Auschwitz that they can finish each others’ sentences. And recalling a disastrous family dinner at Mt. Fuji Restaurant sends the three into uncontrollable gales of laughter accompanied by lots of rolling on the floor in glee, as Melody looks on, mystified (above).
Production values are, once again, top notch. Sarah Laux has appropriately dressed the actors as typical twenty-somethings; J. Jared Janas’ wig and hair design strikes the right note between the two women. Christopher J. Bailey’s lighting conveys the passage of time, and Drew Levy’s use of music fittingly takes us from Hassidic nigun at the beginning to a more contemporary Israeli song at the end. Gerardo Rodriguez is to be commended on his fight direction; the physical altercation in the penultimate scene looks real—and vicious.
Good Jew? Super Jew? Uber Jew or Bad Jew—which cousin fills the bill? To be sure, there’s a plethora of bad behavior in Bad Jews, but notice, the title is plural, so the verdict is not clear-cut. Just trying to figure out who’s who will make your head spin, but the ending (no spoiler) will hit you in the gut and leave you thinking (and talking) as you leave the theater. With their interplay of comedy and tragedy, family interactions offer fresh meat for playwrights looking to entertain us—even as they provoke us to think. Joshua Harmon and the folks at George Street Playhouse have cooked up a splendid dish in Bad Jews. Now, come; eat a little. You won’t go away hungry.
Bad Jews will be performed at the George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick, through April 9. For information and tickets, call the box office at 732.246.7717 or visit www.GSPonline.com
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Review: MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING by James Hindman at NJ Rep
MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING by James Hindman
Reviewed by Michael T. Mooney
at the New Jersey Repertory Company
on Saturday, March 11, 2017 at 8pm
“When the lights go up on MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING, James Hindman's new play at New Jersey Rep, the audience is plunged full-swing into party mode. Don't let the “Little Mermaid” party favors fool you. The eight-year old celebrant has long toddled off(stage) to bed leaving the grown-ups to enjoy each other's company – along with a liberal supply of adult beverages. It's all great fun – until someone's gaze strays in the wrong direction and what was once festive turns fierce - and fast. From then on, we're witness to a four person game of truth or dare, where truth seems in short supply.
The audience fights the urge to reach for their car keys due to director Alan Souza's brilliant cast; an attractive, witty, foursome of thirty-somethings. Even on opening night this tight ensemble was firing on all cylinders. Dustin Charles (James) and Maria Couch (Kelly) are the married MFD's landlords and Jared Michael Delaney (Stuart) and Dana Brooke (Tia) are their engaged besties and possible tenants. Charles and Couch do a terrific job of embodying a settled couple with a hint of discontent beneath the surface. Delaney and Brooke have genuine chemistry, the sort that impulsively puts physical attraction ahead of common sense. Brooke has the play's toughest agenda: balancing her character's tipsy party girl presence while sensitively alluding to (and avoiding) her troubled past. Fascinatingly, Brooke makes it all work.
MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING really covers no new ground in the age-old mating game, but Hindman and Souza do it in a consistently engaging way. Let's face it, if people were honest with each other from the start, there'd be no play, so we need to explore the highways and by-ways of cat-and-mouse deception in a way that sheds some light on human nature. Hindman does so in a direct, realistic way that also proves thought-provoking.
In his narrative of twisted home truths, the playwright has incorporated a subplot about gentrification; how troubled neighborhoods are reborn to profit the rich and drive out the poor. Like the persistent pet smell from the apartment upstairs or the closeted gay neighbor next door, it is a minor distraction in the 90-minute character study's narrative flow.
As a teen, I wore out my cast album of the Broadway musical ON THE 20thCENTURY. One song lyric goes “All those windows! All those people! All those lives!” For some inexplicable reason I initially heard the word “lies” instead of “lives.” Long after I learned that my ears had deceived me, I still had trouble accepting the true lyric. That pretty much sums up a visit to this MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING: windows – people - lies. And once you hear a lie, it's often difficult to trust the truth.
Reviewed by Michael T. Mooney
MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING continues through April 9 at New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, New Jersey. For tickets and further information about their upcoming Spring classes at their new West Side Arts Center call732-229-3166 or visit www.njrep.org”
Photo: Maria Couch and Dustin Charles
Photo credit: SuzAnne Barabas