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Noel Coward

Hey, Look Me Over! New York City Center Encores! at 25

February 10, 2018

Writer-performer Bob Martin recycles his sweater-clad disaffected “Man in the Chair” character from his 2006 Broadway musical "The Drowsy Chaperone." The conceit is that he’s a disgruntled Encores! subscriber who has been chosen to pick his selections for inclusion. Mr. Martin addresses the audience to offer commentary, often tells inside jokes and interacts with the cast.  Depending on one’s sensibilities, this is either an inspired or an insufferable device. However, it doesn’t mar the actual production. [more]

Appreciation of Peter Hall by Stephen Unwin

September 25, 2017

This was a man who loved words, the exact turn of the phrase, its cadence and where the stress falls, whether in Shakespeare or Pinter, Beckett or Stoppard, and his commitment to the nuance of language lay at the heart of everything he did. He used to tell a story about working with Dustin Hoffman on The Merchant of Venice and being delighted when Dustin turned up to rehearsal one morning declaring that ‘you can’t improvise this shit’. For Peter, the detail of the language was everything. A young director mocked him as an ‘iambic fundamentalist’: Peter was thrilled. Words, words, words were everything. [more]

Present Laughter

April 23, 2017

As the ageing matinee idol who never forgets to check his appearance in the mirror, Kline plays a man who is always acting, both on stage and off. His animated physicality in his roles has always been in evidence but here he outdoes himself. Using his arms, hands, head, face and body as his canvas, he is almost never still showing us what can be done on each and every line. He makes even an ordinary line into a witticism and his comebacks wither with every additional jibe. He cajoles, seduces, emotes, wheedles and at the same time suggests he pities himself. He creates a bigger than life character (is John Barrymore his model?) and watching him is a lesson in consummate acting. So completely does he make Garry Essendine his own, you cannot imagine anyone else in the role – although among other New York revivals he has been played by such stars as George C. Scott, Frank Langella, Victor Garber and Coward himself. [more]

Hoi Polloi

November 4, 2016

"Hoi Polloi" was Coward’s tribute to the London working class that was trying to get back on its feet after the devastation of World War II. Partly out of his element and partly as Coward never saw the show in production, both the book and the score seem like part of a first draft which needs to be fleshed out. Mindy Cooper’s tame production with a hard-working cast of ten seems at best second-rate Coward rather than any unjustly lost rediscovery. The Master may have realized that he had not solved his story’s problems. [more]

92nd Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists Series: I Have Confidence: Rodgers After Hammerstein

May 26, 2016

Above the stage on a screen throughout the presentation were projected photographs illustrating Rodgers’ career and appropriate backdrops for the locales of the shows. Brief insightful video interviews with Rodgers’ daughter Linda, lyricists Sheldon Harnick and Martin Charnin, playwright Sherman Yellen, historian Ken Bloom, Rodgers grandson Peter Melnick, record producer Thomas Z. Shepard, and the actor John Cullum were shown. A 1974 Public Television interview conducted by James Day showed the aged Rodgers ravaged by strokes and throat cancer but still vital and articulate. [more]

The Algonquin Kid

December 27, 2015

Colby’s fascinatingly entertaining autobiography, "The Algonquin Kid," was turned into a one-time theatrical event as part of the Urban Stages’ Winter Rhythms series, hosted by Mr. Colby, produced and directed by Peter Napolitano, with Bill Zeffiro at the piano playing a rich list of songs associated with the many famously creative hotel guests and a few written by Mr. Colby himself. As a real-life Eloise, Mr. Colby was witness to much history and this show, barely scratching the surface, was witness to his good fortune. [more]

The Girl Who Came to Supper

November 10, 2014

The Girl Who Came to Supper from the 1963-64 Broadway season was Noel Coward's last musical and the only one in which he wrote music and lyrics to another author's story. In this case the musical was the work of playwright and screenwriter Harry Kurnitz, adapted from Terence Rattigan's The Sleeping Prince, which originally premiered in 1953 to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Better known in its film version called The Prince and the Showgirl, its plot travels back to June 1911 for the Coronation of George V, grandfather of Elizabeth. The lavishly costumed concert staging by Musicals Tonight! features first-rate leads and an excellent musical ensemble. It also demonstrates the strengths and weaknesses of the material. [more]