On Broadway, I was invited back to see the return of Nathan Lane in It's Only a Play, by Terrence McNally, at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. My wife was in China, when it opened on October 9. 2014. Man proposes, but Fate disposes. At the matinee on Saturday, April 4, Lane's standby, David Beach, replaced him. Lane was unwell. With live entertainment, illness can become a problem. Beach gave a competent performance, but, unfortunately, Lane is a theatre treasure, and is virtually irreplaceable.
I was also invited back to see On the Town, at the Lyric Theatre. I originally wrote that I've seen many revivals on Broadway, and most have been mediocre. However, this version is somewhat better, with Megan Fairchild, a ballerina from the New York City Ballet, who is easily the outstanding performer on the stage. She is a wonderful dancer, pretty and charming, and steals every scene in which she appears. The book is ridiculous, and has not improved with age. The music, dancing and the lyrics are a joy, and worth the price of admission.
A revised libretto by Heidi Thomas of Gigi, book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, music by Frederick Loewe, based on the novel by Colette, at the Neil Simon Theatre, adds nothing to what was a wonderful film in 1958, which won nine Academy Awards, and starred three splendid French actors, the adorable Leslie Caron, the debonair Louis Jourdan and the Gallic charmer Maurice Chevalier. Those, who remember the film with joy, should skip this atrocious revival. The principals are miscast. Vanessa Hudgens in the title role is charmless, Corey Cott has no romantic chemistry, and Howard McGillin looks far too young to be an old roue, and former lover to a grandmother played by Victoria Clark. The minimal set does not reflect the splendor of Paris in the early 1900s. The choreography by Joshua Bergasse is disppointing. Enough with somersaults and cartwheels! This is not Cirque de Soleil. The direction by Eric Schaeffer seems to be lacking. The songs remain enjoyable, but having Thank Heaven for Little Girls, sung by Clark andDee Hoty destroys one of the memorable moments from the film, when Chevalier sings the song at the beginning and the end of the film. Apparently, in the minds of some people, Chevalier is being lecherous. Ridiculous! He is praising the female gender. I thank heaven for little girls. I married two of them, and they made me a happy man. Be wise and rent the film.
Playwright Robert Askins has written the most outrageous and funniest play on Broadway. Hand to God, at the Booth Theatre, is about Jason,a young, shy young man (a magnificent Steven Boyer), whose mother (a wonderful Geneva Carr) is putting on a puppet show for her church in a small town in Texas. Two other students (Sarah Stiles and Michael Oberholtzer) are involved in the show. Jason's hand puppet Tyrone, a devil, takes over Jason's personality, and causes chaos in the church. It is a remarkable performance. The five member cast, with Marc Kudisch as the Pastor of the church, expertly directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel, is one of the finest ensemble performances of the season. Everyone on the stage deserves a Tony nomination. It is one of the most inventive, imaginative plays that I have ever seen, and I thank the playwright for giving me one of the most happiest theatrical experiences on Broadway this season. We celebrated the opening night party at Urbo, 11 Times Square, with the cast and many celebrity guests, including Joel Grey, Norbert Leo Butz and Megan Hilty.
When it comes to historical plays and costume dramas, it is hard to find better productions than those that are presented on Broadway by British companies, like the Royal Shakespeare Company. We are privileged to enjoy almost six hours in two parts of Wolf Hall: Part One and Two, by Hilary Mantel, adapted by Mike Poulton, at the Winter Garden, with a brilliant cast of twenty three actors, expertly directed by Jeremy Herrin. It is the well known story of King Henry VIII ((Nathaniel Parker), who wishes to divorce his first Queen, Katherine of Aragon (Lucy Briers), because she has not produced a male heir to the throne. He wishes to marry a fertile Anne Boleyn (Lydia Leonard), and employs a cunning lawyer Thomas Cromwell (an outstanding Ben Miles) to achieve his aim. The tale, in numerous brief scenes, is full of political shenanigans and intrigue, and is constantly riveting. It is a magnificent, unique theatrical experience. The opening night party took place in the restaurants of Rockefeller Center, with guests Kristine Nielsen, Elizabeth Ashley and Eric Bogosian.
An American in Paris, music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, book by Craig Lucas, at the Palace Theatre, opens on Sunday, April 12. My comments will appear in my next column.
I attended a reading of a new play, Adam's Gifts, by Peter Filichia, directed by Michael Mastro, at St. Luke's Theatre, 308 West 46th St, with a five member cast, starring Dan Lauria. It takes place in the present, past and future. A mean, illiterate landlord (Lauria) develops a friendship with a 13-years-old student, who teaches him to read. This changes the old man's life. It is an enjoyable play, and I wish Peter good luck with it.
I attended a Meet-N-Greet for the new play Dinner With the Boys, by and starring Dan Lauria, directed by Frank Megna, at the Snapple Rehearsal Studios. It opens at the Acorn Theatre at Theater Row, and I look forward to its opening on May 4