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Black Tie International:
On The Town With Aubrey Reuben -December 17, 2016

 

 

 


On the Town With Aubrey Reuben
Where All the Stars Shine Brightly!
December 17, 2016


 

In the great days of Broadway musicals, talented composers, like Cole Porter or Irving Berlin, were able to compose the music and write the lyrics. Two geniuses, like Richard Rodgers who composed magnificent, melodious music, and Oscar Hammerstein II who wrote equally magnificent, intelligent lyrics, made musical theater a delight on Broadway. Today, it takes four untalented composers and writers to present In Transit, book, music and lyrics, by Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth, at Circle in the Square Theatre, with the addition of two more people to give us an original concept. It is a a cappella show. An eleven member cast, choreographed and directed by Kathleen Marshall, ride a subway train, while we watch for one hour and forty minutes. To be honest, my wife and I rarely take the subway. It is crowded, and full of homeless people, aggressive beggars, fearless muggers, sexual perverts and other types, with whom we do not like to associate. To watch totally unbelievable events taking place there by uninteresting characters, accompanied by less than memorable songs, is a fantasy devoid of reality.


 

Paramour, directed and conceived by Phillipe Decoufle, at the Lyric Theatre, is a dazzling entertainment by Cirque de Soleil. We were invited back to see it again. It is the story of a director (Jeremy Kushnier) in Hollywood, who discovers a new artist (Ruby Lewis), who has a jealous boyfriend. Complications ensue. The story is a cliche, but the amazing circus acts are fabulous. Every performer seems to do the impossible and we watch with astonishment as they float through the air. It is a sight not to be missed. After the performance, the producers Stephen C. Byrd and Alia Jones-Harvey invited us to a reception in the Apollo Link Lounge in the theatre, where we met some of the cast members. I congratulated Ruby Lewis on her beautiful singing and acting.


 

 

Othello, by William Shakespeare, is a production of the New York Theatre Workshop, starring David Oyelowo in the title role and Daniel Craig as the cunning villain, Iago. Both give two of the finest performances of the season. The story of a jealous husband, who murders his innocent wife, is one the best plays that Shakespeare ever wrote. While the acting by the two leading actors is brilliant, the modern, up dated production is not. The first act begins in total darkness and there are other dark scenes throughout the play. This adds nothing to the play, and is uncomfortable for one's eyesight. The addition of a guitar player, who wanders around playing dreary songs, is also a worthless addition to the play. The scenic design, consisting of filthy mattresses, is also unpleasant to the eye. And, finally, for over three hours to sit on hard wooden benches redesigned for this production is uncomfortable for one's posterior.


 

The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, by David Greig, directed by Wils Wilson, at the Heath in the McKittrick Hotel, is a musical, with five cast members. The movement director Janice Parker has them circulate around the venue, which is like a Scottish pub, where shots of whisky are on the counter of the bar for the audience to sample, and in the intermission, ham and cheese or plain cheese sandwiches are served also, to modify the effect of the whisky. With the audience so contented, they can enjoy the entertaining tale of a young lady doing research about the Devil, whom she encounters. The talented cast play musical instruments, which enlivens the performance. It is a delightful way to spend the evening, and I recommend it highly. For non whisky drinkers, there is a cash bar, which serves other drinks, as well as a specialty named appropriately The Devil's Brew. We attended the opening night party two nights later to indulge in more food and drink. The Scots know how to enjoy life!


 

Nina Conti In Your Face, at the Barrow Street Theatre, until December 23, is an entertaining show. Nina Conti, daughter of the distinguished English actor Tom Conti, is a remarkable ventriloquist. When she appears on stage with her puppet MONKEY and engages the audience, you would be convinced that MONKEY is talking.

 

She also has members of the audience go on stage, where she place masks on their faces with movable lips, and again she convinces the audience that they are speaking. It is a 65-minute performance, and the audience granted her a well deserved standing ovation.

Martin Luther on Trial
, by Chris Cragin-Day and Max McLean, at the Pearl Theatre, is an interesting play, by a superb six member cast, directed expertly by Michael Parva, A trial is held in the Afterlife between Heaven and Hell. Various witnesses appear, like Hitler and Freud, while we watch scenes from Martin Luther's life. It is worth a visit. 


 

The New York Pops, conducted by music director Steven Reineke, offered their annual holiday celebration at Carnegie hall, with four outstanding performers, Ann Hampton Callaway, Liz Callaway, Anthony Nunziata, Will Nunziata, and Essential Voices USA, conducted by Judith Clurman. They sang popular and traditional Chanukah and Christmas songs. A highlight of the first part was a spiritual Go Tell It on the Mountain, and  another highlight after the intermission a White Christmas Medley, by Irving Berlin, both performed by the entire company. For 34 years, The New York Pops has been a treasured New York institution. It was a splendid concert.

 



I photographed the cast and creative team of the MCC Theater's Yen, by Anna Jordan and directed by Trip Cullman, which opens on January 30. I look forward to attending the opening night. Across the hall were the  cast of Silent NO MORE, celebrating 20 years of empowering deaf children to speak, dream, achieve and inspire. They performed at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall on December 15. Unfortunately, I could not attend, because I had to review an Off-Broadway play the same night. 


 

Susan L. Schulman held her annual Chicken Liver party at her home on the West Side. It was delightful with charming guests, like Kathleen Chalfant, Karen Ziemba and Barbara Hoffman. That, plus delicious food and drink made it a splendid evening.



We attended a reception for War Paint at Wolfgang's, 250 West 41st St. With exquisite hors d'oeuvres and drink, it was another wonderful event. I congratulated Michael Greif for his success with Dear Evan Hansen, and he is now a double threat on Broadway directing Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole in War Paint. I told my only joke about Elizabeth Arden to Christine. She seemed to enjoy it.


 

I went to Rattle N Hum West, 306 West 39th St, a lovely pub, for the School of Rock-The Musical's launch of a new beer, School of Hops. It is delicious, and will be sold at the Winter Garden Theatre, where the show is playing. They are also providing aSchool of Pop, a strawberry flavored non-alcoholic seltzer. The proceeds from the sale of the two beverages will go to a charity, Sing for Hope, a worthy cause.

 

 

I received the Masterworks Broadway/Epic Records soundtrack for the television program of Hairspray LIVE! from Sony Music. I did not see the program, but the songs were pleasant to hear again. I reviewed the original on Broadway, which was very entertaining. The TV cast is good, but I'm afraid they cannot compete with the original cast on Broadway.


 

I received a copy of When Broadway Went to Hollywood, by Ethan Mordden, Oxford University Press, 2016. It is a wonderful, honest book about how Hollywood producers seduced the leading composers on Broadway to compose music for their films. In general, it was not a pleasant experience. Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and many others discovered how different filmmaking is from theatre, where their efforts are rarely respected. In spite of that, many glorious musicals were made, and are described in detail.The reader will enjoy all the gossip. The author is knowledgeable, and does not withhold his punches. He is also very witty. All lovers of film and theatre will enjoy this marvelous book.

 
 

12-17-16 (L-R) Anthony Nunziata. Liz Callaway. Ann Hampton Callaway. Will Nunziata after they performed with The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall. 881 Seventh Ave.. Friday night.12-16-16..  Photo by:  Aubrey Reuben

12-17-16 Cast members (L-R) Lucas Hedges. Ari Graynor. Stefania LaVie Owen. Justice Smith at a photo op for "Yen" at the Manhattan Theatre Club Studios. 311 West 43rd St. Tuesday morning. 12-13-16..  Photo by:  Aubrey fReuben

12-17-16 (L-R) Anthony Nunziata. Liz Callaway. Ann Hampton Callaway. Will Nunziata after they performed with The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall.
881 Seventh Ave.. Friday night.12-16-16.

12-17-16 Cast members (L-R) Lucas Hedges. Ari Graynor. Stefania LaVie Owen. Justice Smith at a photo op for "Yen" at the Manhattan Theatre Club Studios. 311 West 43rd St. Tuesday morning. 12-13-16.

 

Gerard Mc Keon and Joyce Brooks.  Photo by:  Rose Billings/Blacktiemagazine.com

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