Monday, October 6, 2014

Review: 'Can-Can' at Paper Mill Playhouse 'C’est Magnifique!'


Wow! The Paper Mill Playhouse has opened its 2014-2015 season with a world-class production of Broadway-bound Can-CanThe show has all the original Cole Porter music intact and a fine re-crafted book that retains all of the original characters and intent. This Can-Can, directed by David Lee, delivers big time that special excitement unique to live theater via the glorious combination of...great music, exuberant dancing, marvelous cast, stunning costumes, and wonderful sets....a feast for the eye and ear. 

Can_Can Photo 7bTwo of the best reasons to see this theater event, however are the outstanding stars, Tony nominee Kate Baldwin and Broadway veteran Jason Danieley.  As in the original, this version centers on the romance between the strict judge Aristide (Jason Danieley) and Pistache (Kate Baldwin), the Parisian nightclub owner notorious for presenting the much too revealing version of the dance Can-Can. Kate Baldwin (photo right) gives a star-turn performance. Her Pistache is spot-on as the attractive owner and master charmer of the Bal du Paradis nightclub. She charms customers, staff and even the police (plus the audience).

Jason Danieley, blessed with a fine voice, is very impressive as the 'by-the-book' judge who professes his love for Pistache while threatening to close the club and arrest her and the girls if Pistache continues to present the scandalous version of the Can-Can. His showstopper solo outside the club is the standard It's All Right With Me (photo below left).

Can_Can Photo 8

The other excellent featured cast members are: Michael Berresse (Hilaire Jussac, the newspaper art critic and villian of the piece), Greg Hildreth (Boris Adzinidzinadze, the struggling sculptor who loves Claudine), Megan Sikora (Claudine, she must choose between penniless Boris and the powerful Jussac), Michael Kostroff (Jean-Louis, Pistache's faithful club manager), Mark Price (Hercule, a club habitué and poet friend of Boris), and Justin Robertson (Étienne, also friend to Boris and a club habitué). Greg Hildreth and Michael Kostroff provide many of the play's funniest moments. Even music director Steve Orich makes a funny contribution.

The supporting cast includes: Mike Baerga, Chloe Sian Campbell, Jace Coronado, Desireé Davar, Sarah DeBiase, Taurean Everett, Sarah Marie Jenkins, Evan Kasprzak, Jenny Laroche, Kate Marilley, Michael McArthur, Sarah Meahl, Peter Nelson, Justin Patterson, Molly Tynes and Ryan Worsing. 

Can_Can Photo 6

The musical highlights are many (after all this is a Cole Porter score!)....starting with the high-kicking opening Can-Can and the Pistache's advice to the girls Never Give Anything Away. Baldwin and Danieley each and together sing the now American classics C'est Magnifique, I Love Paris, and Allez-Vous En. Danieley’s version of I Love Paris while standing not too securely on the Pont Neuf rail is an Act Two highlight. 

The all star high-kicking production team for Can-Can: director David Lee (Frasier, Cheers); choreography Patti Colombo (Paper Mill’s Peter Pan, On the Town, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers); Music Director/Conductor Steve Orich (Tony Award nomination for Best Orchestrations for Jersey Boys); Scenic Design Rob Bissinger; Costume Design Ann Hould-Ward (Tony Award for Best Costume Design for Beauty and the Beast); Lighting Design Michael Gilliam (Broadway productions of Bonnie and Clyde, Brooklyn and Big River); Sound Design Randy Hansen;  Wig & Makeup Design Rob Greene and J. Jared Janas; Fight director Tim Weske and production stage manager Gary Mickelson.

The show features the book by Abe Burrows (Guys and Dolls, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) and a re-crafted script by Joel Fields (Ugly Betty, The Americans) and David Lee. “Joel and I started collaborating on Can-Can at the Pasadena Playhouse over seven years ago,” David Lee explains. “­With full permission of the Burrows and Porter estates the book has been updated without being modernized—Can-Can is still set in 1893—and although 90% rewritten it retains all of Abe Burrows' original characters and intent.”

If your only exposure to Can Can was from the now infamous 1960 film adaptation that starred Shirley MacLaine, Frank Sinatra, Maurice Chevalier and Louis Jourdan have no fear. Where the film failed in spades, this Can Can succeeds in spades. Next stop Broadway. This will be a hot ticket between now and the closing on the 26th of October. Oh, by the way...the girls are all very wholesome. This is a 1950's creation remember--no message, no nudity, no foul language, just pure first rate entertainment. Enjoy -  we did.

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio    October 5, 2014

Paper Mill Playhouse is presenting Can-Can eight times a week, Wednesday through Sunday. Performance schedule: Wednesday at 7:30 pm, Thursday at 1:30 pm and 7:30 pm, Friday at 8:00 pm, Saturday at 1:30 pm and 8:00 pm and Sunday at 1:30 pm and 7:00 pm. Tickets from $28 to $99. Tickets may be purchased by calling 973.376.4343, at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn, or online at

PHOTO 1:Megan Sikora (Claudine) and the girls of Can-Can. by Matthew Murphy;
PHOTO 2: Kate Baldwin (La Mome Pistache). by Matthew Murphy;
PHOTO 3: From left to right: Jason Danieley (Aristide Forestier), Greg Hildreth (Boris Adzinidzinadze), Justin Robertson (Etienne) and Mark Price (Hercule): by Matthew Murphy;
PHOTO 4:  The company of Can-Can. by Jerry Dalia;

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