New York City Center Encores! (Artistic Director Jack Viertel and Music Director Rob Berman), celebrates the rarely heard works of America’s most important composers and lyricists. Conceived in 1994 as concert performances, Encores! gives three glorious scores the chance to be heard as their creators originally intended. Each production is a whirlwind, with just eight days of rehearsals, one day of dress rehearsal and five performances. The cast, backed by The Encores! Orchestra (often more than 30 players strong), takes the stage with books in hand. http://www.nycitycenter.org/Home/On-Stage/Encores!
Red-haired, animated and engagingly boyish, 18-year-old Nicholas Barasch is sensational as Huckleberry Finn. Mr. Barasch is onstage virtually the entire time and winningly carries the show. As Jim, the runaway slave, Kyle Scatliffe brings dignity, forcefulness and powerful vocal ability during his commanding performance. [more]
Ms. Errico gives a smashing musical theater performance. Her gutsy broad that’s tough on the outside and unraveling on the inside characterization is quite captivating. Her singing of several of the wan attempts at showstoppers exhibits her charismatic range. It’s definitely a case of a performer elevating weak material with their talents. Her commitment is as intense here as if she were playing either Sally or Phyllis from Follies particularly for the boozy ode to self pity, “Everyone Loves Leona.” [more]
The prime instigator of the events, John Adams, was rotund and abrasive. Here he is played by the handsome Santino Fontana who was Prince Charming in the recent Broadway production of Cinderella. Though Mr. Fontana bears no physical resemblance to Adams he conveys his rage, frustration and humanity with his dynamic performance. Fontana’s soaring voice captures the emotion and humor of the score, particularly on "Is Anybody There?" [more]
Director Ruben Santiago-Hudson has inventively and thoughtfully staged the show with vibrant precision. Mr. Santiago-Hudson’s work combined with Camille A. Brown’s often stunning choreography makes for an eye-catching spectacle including the dream sequence with The Queen of Sheba in a golden gown and headdress. Santiago-Hudson also collaborated with Encores! artistic director Jack Viertel in adapting Lynn Root’s original book into an engagingly flowing narrative with depth. [more]
Instrumental to its success is the thrilling direction of Walter Bobbie. Combining sensitive performances with an inspired sense of stagecraft, Mr. Bobbie creates many visually striking tableaus and images that vibrantly and emotionally realize this often funny and often painful material. These qualities are enhanced by choreographer Josh Rhodes’ wonderful and plentiful Greek dance sequences that range from euphoric to menacing. [more]
The concert series Encores! “celebrates the rarely heard works of America’s most important composers and lyricists.” With "Paint Your Wagon," they have selected a perfect candidate to demonstrate their mission. Until now, it hasn’t been revived in New York City, and though some of the songs have remained familiar, the show itself has faded into relative obscurity. Artistic Director Jack Viertel and playwright Marc Acito are credited with this concert adaptation of the original book. [more]
One of the chief pleasures here is the first appearance in more than 30 years by the legendary Tommy Tune in a New York City musical. Since his Tony Award-winning leading role in the Broadway Gershwin revisal, "My One and Only" in 1983, he’s directed, choreographed, made special appearances, toured in musicals and periodically performs a nightclub act. He plays an entertainer at the garden party and at the hotel. In a three-piece red neon suit, he sings and taps “Fascinating Rhythm” solo and then with the ensemble. In the second act, he’s in a blue neon suit and a straw boater with a blue bird on top to sing and tap “Little Jazz Bird.” After leaving the stage, he pops out from the wings, doffs the hat, revealing a gold star inside. It’s symbolic as he embodies the old time, unique star quality Broadway is known for. [more]
Encores!, known for reviving neglected Broadway musicals for limited runs, is presenting the show. Here, it has strayed from its mission by producing this new adaption of a classic film musical, billed as "A Special Event," with mixed results. The first act drags with exposition and setting up complications that are sluggishly rendered. The second act is lively and very enjoyable. [more]
The audience packing City Center--whether applauding or laughing or cheering--certainly showed its enthusiasm throughout. The opening scene of "tick, tick...BOOM!" is very powerfully and economically written. I admire Larson's writing. Hearing those ticks (representing the relentless passing of time), and anticipating the coming boom (of an impending disaster that is somehow sensed without being fully understood) ... well, that came from a deep place. [more]
“For years I walked by this place and saw all the fancy people going in. It’s a dream come true to be here,” said Megan Hilty during her wonderfully eclectic debut cabaret show at the Café Carlyle. [more]
Alas, by intermission many in the audience were asking each other: this was a Broadway smash? From Encores! we have come to expect Champagne, and this was a dreary vin ordinaire, a bit pale and a bit stale. [more]
Seen today, 70, Girls, 70 is a weak show with a few strong numbers and a touching message about America's indifferent treatment of its elders. Within the show's limitations, Director/Choreographer Kathleen Marshall did her best to spin straw into gold, as did the outstanding Encores! Orchestra led by musical director Paul Gemignani.
The show possesses a golden score characteristic of the Broadway golden age of the early 1950s, and is worth breathing life into, even if just for a weekend at City Center. Gary Griffin, who has tamed previous Encores! productions including "The New Moon" and last year's "Pardon My English," provides skillful, erudite direction for the piece, showcasing the musical's memorable score as well as a number of talented performers such as Jason Danieley, Emily Sinner, and Sally Murphy. [more]