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Grand Hotel, The Musical

Taking up Tommy Tune’s mantle is Josh Rhodes whose direction and choreography energizes the patchy material in his own distinctive and arresting fashion.

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Irina Dvorovenko and James Snyder in a scene from the New York City Center Encores! production of “Grand Hotel, The Musical” (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

Darryl Reilly

Darryl Reilly, Critic

Even without Tommy Tune’s monumental Tony Award-winning direction and choreography, this New York City Center Encores!’ revival of Grand Hotel is exceptional. Taking up Mr. Tune’s mantle is Josh Rhodes whose direction and choreography energizes the patchy material in his own distinctive and arresting fashion.  With a lackluster score and a stilted book, to succeed the show requires and receives theatrical razzle dazzle.

“We’ll Take a Glass Together” is an exhilarating production number. Brandon Uranowitz’s animated youthfulness is up to the task of equaling the impact of Michael Jeter’s legendary turn in the original production as the dying bookkeeper enjoying a carefree spree.  Mr. Uranowitz’s limber movements are thrilling as he euphorically undulates up and down flanked by a large gold dance barre carried by the terrific ensemble.

James Snyder as the impoverished and tragic Baron joins Uranowitz for the merriment. Mr. Snyder’s soaring singing voice and leading man charisma combined with his melancholy haughtiness make for a rich characterization.

Mr. Rhodes incorporates creates several riveting balletic sequences including a sensational Bolero created and danced by Junior Cervila and Guadalupe Garcia, numerous cheery Charlestons and buoyant tap dancing. Overall, he offers an inventive reconception.

Heléne Yorke and Brandon Uranowitz in a scene from the New York City Center Encores! production “Grand Hotel, The Musical” (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

Scenic designer Allen Moyer’s artfully small-scale opulence is integral in realizing this vision. Chandeliers, gold chairs and a steep, red carpeted staircase where the assortment of characters is introduced as they walk down into the lobby of the Grand Hotel are the chief components of Mr. Moyer’s clever handiwork.

It’s Berlin in 1928, so seediness, decadence, uneasiness, anti-Semitism and homoeroticism of both genders abound. We instantly get this as the first image is of a man shooting up morphine.  That is the cadaverous, shaven-headed William Ryall who is charmingly chilly as The Doctor who intermittently provides acidic commentary.  Mr. Ryall appeared in the original production in two small roles.

As the over the hill ballerina, Irina Dvorovenko is splendidly wistful and has great chemistry with Snyder that infuses their doomed love affair with intensity. Natascia Diaz is achingly passionate as Ms. Dvorovenko’s “Confidante,” a long-time personal assistant with romantic desires for her.

Broadway veteran John Dossett is commanding as the larcenous and kinky business tycoon. Heléne Yorke achieves a sparkling portrait of old-time, Hollywood hardscrabble ambition as the typist with her Jean Harlow-style hairdo.

Guadalupe Garcia and Junior Cervila (center) in a scene from the New York City Center Encores! production “Grand Hotel, The Musical” (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

John Clay III, Nehal Joshi, James T. Lane, Jamie LaVerdiere, Eric Leviton, Robert Montano, Kevin Pariseau and Daniel Yearwood comprise the rest of the cast with speaking roles. They all make strong impressions in their roles of hotel staff, villains and passersby.

The dynamic chorus consists of Aaron J. Albano, Matt Bauman, Kate Chapman, Sara Esty, Hannah Florence, Richard Gatta, Emily Kelly, Andrew Kruep, Kelly Methven, Harris Milgrim, Adam Roberts, Christopher Trepinski, and Sharrod Williams.

Linda Cho’s costume design is a gorgeous assembly of glittering flapper dresses and period fashions that reflect the era’s fading grandeur.

Lighting designer Ken Billington creates a vintage sheen with hues of smoky dimness. Kai Harada’s sound design forcefully realizes the expertise of the Encores! Orchestra under the lively musical direction of Rob Berman. They’re raised up over the action on a second level and slightly visible from audience members in the orchestra.

John Dossett left) and Nehal Joshi (right) in a scene from the New York City Center Encores! production “Grand Hotel, The Musical” (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

The score has bright spots but is at best passable. The lyrics are flatly simplistic and the music is mildly tuneful. It’s a mashup of Robert Wright and George Forrest’s initial efforts and Maury Yeston’s additional material. Luther Davis’ clunky book was refined by the uncredited Peter Stone. Mr. Stone’s book for 1776 is arguably one of the best in the annals of musical theater history and he was a noted show doctor.

The Vienna born, Jewish author Vicki Baum published her best-selling novel Grand Hotel in 1929.  It was adapted into a popular stage play that year in Berlin.  A Broadway production opened in 1930 and ran for over a year. The 1932 MGM film version won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It pioneered all-star movie casting with Greta Garbo, John and Lionel Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, Lewis Stone and Jean Hersholt in the principal roles.

Kismet creators Mr. Davis, Mr. Wright and Mr. Forrest attempted a musical adaptation in the 1950’s starring Paul Muni that closed on the road. Decades later Tommy Tune dusted it off and shepherded it through a rocky creative process to great acclaim.  It opened on Broadway on November 12, 1989 and ran for 1,017 performances.

This New York City Center Encores!’ revival of Grand Hotel, The Musical proves it once again to be a triumph of physical staging, performance and design over its weak elements.

Grand Hotel, The Musical (March 21 – 25, 2018) 

New York City Center Encores! 

New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-581-1212 or visit http://www.nycitycenter.org

Running time: two hours with no intermission

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Darryl Reilly
About Darryl Reilly (512 Articles)
A native New Yorker, Darryl Reilly graduated from NYU with a BFA in Cinema Studies. For the Broadway League, (formerly The League of American Theatres and Producers) he developed, and for five years conducted their Broadway Open House Tours, which took visitors through The Theatre District and into several Broadway theaters. He contributed to Broadway Musicals Show by Show: Sixth Edition (Applause Books). Since 2013, he has reviewed theater, cabaret, and concerts for Theaterscene.net.

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