Sting has won 16 Grammy Awards and sold 100 million records. He is to be commended for composing a Broadway musical. The Last Ship, at the Neil Simon Theatre, has pleasant music, which fit well in the framework of the story. Unfortunately, the book by John Logan and Brian Yorkey is weak. It tells two stories. It takes place in Wallsend in Newcastle, where ships were built. The frustrated shipbuilders, encouraged by their priest (Fred Applegate), occupy the closed shipyard illegally to build a last ship.The second story is the return of a sailor (Michael Esper) after 15 years, when he learns that his brutal father has died. He would also like to be reunited with his childhood sweetheart (Rachel Tucker), who has a son (Collin Kelly-Sordelet) and a new reliable man in her life (Aaron Lazar). All the cast, directed by Joe Mantello, sing well with rich, powerful voices. The scenic and costume design by David Zinn is dark, grim and depressing. The choreography by Steven Hoggett is mainly foot stomping by the men, and is uninspiring. The musical is a fine effort, but this ship will have a difficult time sailing on Broadway.
Sting led the cast and musicians outside the Neil Simon Theatre, 250 West 52nd St, in a song from his Broadway Musical The Last Ship as a traditional Saturday Night Shout as a serenade to Jersey Boys in the theatre across the street. It was great fun. I returned opening night to photograph the arrivals, which included Billy Joel, Joely Richardson and Robert De Niro, among many others.The party was at Chelsea Piers, and I skipped it. If I can't walk there, I don't like going there.
Ewan McGregor makes his Broadway debut in the revival of The Real Thing, by Tom Stoppard, at the American Airlines Theatre, and he gives a splendid performance. He is a jealous playwright with women problems, in this tale of adultery in present day England. He leaves his wife (Cynthia Nixon) for a friend's wife (Maggie Gyllenhaal, also in her Broadway debut), but is suspicious of his two wives, believing them to be committing adultery with other men. As always, in a Stoppard play, it is intelligent, witty and quite believable. McGregor dominates the play, while Gyllenhaal is quite good as his second wife. Sam Gold has directed the cast, and makes peculiar choices with the introduction of musical selections sung by the cast, which add nothing to the play. Also, the costumes worn by the three actresses are atrocious and not pleasant to look at.
Off Broadway, a revival of Lips Together, Teeth Apart, by Terrence McNally, is a limp production with four fine actors, directed by Peter Dubois. The two couples spend a weekend in 1990 during the height of the AIDS crisis on Fire Island, and talk and talk about death and other unpleasant subjects. It is not a stimulating theatrical experience.
American Ballet Theatre (ABT) presented another wonderful program of three ballets at the David I. Koch Theater. Gaite Parisienne, choreography by Leonide Massine, music by Jacques Offenbach, is a delight to the eyes. The costumes ofChristian Lacroix are colorful, bright and enchanting. Every dancer looks marvelous. The dancing is fun and joyous to the sparkling, bubbly music of Offenbach. Veronika Part (Glove Seller) and Luciana Paris (Flower Girl), and Herman Cornejo (The Peruvian) and Cory Stearns (The Baron) were outstanding. The Can-Can Dancers were the highlight of this lovely ballet. Raymonda Divertissements, choreography by Marius Petipa, music by Alexander Glazounov, was as good the second time as at the first viewing, with Hee Seo brilliant in the Grand Pas Classique, in her Variation and in the Finale. The third ballet was Bach Partita, choreography by Twyla Tharp, music by Johann Sebastian Bach, with a superb solo violinist Charles Yang. It was another splendid night at the ballet.
The Legend of Love, choreography by Yuri Grigorovich, music by Arif Melikov, was presented direct from Moscow by the Bolshoi Ballet in HD transmission. I had never seen this ballet before, although it was created in 1961. It is a typical fantasy, a story ballet that does not require a viewer's belief. One only needs to sit back and enjoy the impressive music and the magnificent dancing. The three leads were outstanding. Maria Allash, substituting for Svetlana Zakharova, was exquisite. Anna Nikulina, as her sister, was equally superb, and Denis Rodkin, as the man the two women love, was brilliant. To watch these three marvelous dancers was a delight, and the Pas de Deux in the second act by Nikulina and Rodkin was breathtaking.The rest of the company was a joy to behold. It was truly a fabulous afternoon at the ballet.
The Dramatist Guild Fund Gala Great Writers Thank Their Lucky Stars, at The Edison Ballroom, was a wonderful event with many of our most esteemed writers and composers like Stephen Sondheim, Charles Strouse and Sheldon Harnickand many others too numerous to mention.
Amaranth, 62nd St and Madison Ave, celebrated its 15th anniversary, with delicious food and wines. It was a grand party at a lovely restaurant.
The Ritz, bar and lounge, 369 West 46th St, celebrated its eighth anniversary with delicious food and cocktails. DJ Xavier played the music, and I met the owner Tommy Greco and Pia, his charming wife from Chile. It was a festive occasion.
Jefferson Mays and Bryce Pinkham, both starring in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, received their caricatures at Sardi's. Both well deserved.
I attended a press preview of a splendid exhibition Helena Rubinstein: Beauty Is Power, October 31, 2014- March 22, 2015 at the Jewish Museum on 92nd St. and Fifth Ave. Everyone, women especially, will be impressed by this remarkable woman, who created a cosmetic empire, and changed how women felt about making themselves beautiful. She was also a great collector of Oceanic and African art, as well as a friend to many of the modern painters, who did portraits and drawings of her, especially Picasso. The exhibition also shows samples of her miniature doll-size rooms. There is an eight minute clip of her advertising her beauty treatments and being interviewed. Do not miss this superb exhibition.
I attended press screenings for Fassbinder: Romantic Anarchist (Part 2) November 7-26 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Querelle, by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany/France, 1982, was the filmmaker's last film based on book by Jean Genet. A sailor (Brad Davis) visits a seedy bar in Brest, where his ship docks. He wants to purchase opium. He is sodomized by the owner, seduced by the owner's wife (a fearless performance by Jeanne Moreau), has a sexual encounter with a policeman, who frequents the bar, and murders a fellow seaman. The language in English is crude and filthy, describing whatever is not shown graphically. It is a repugnant film, with no redeeming virtue.
Veronika Kass, by Fassbinder, West Germany, 1982, is his next to the last film, about a neurotic aging film star (Rosel Zech), addicted to morphine, who engages in a relationship with a sports reporter (Hilmar Thate), with tragic consequences. It is a well made tale, with superb acting by a wonderful cast.
Fear of Fear, by Fassbinder, West Germany, 1975, is about a married woman (an excellent Margit Carstensen), who succumbs to depression after the birth of a second child. With an uninvolved husband, and an unsympathetic mother-in-law and sister-in-law, it is a grim, depressing tale, as she resorts to valium, and then cognac, and then adultery. The acting is splendid, and the film is engrossing.