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Photo Credit - Carol Rosegg
Altar Boyz
Monday - Friday @ 8:00PM
Saturday 2:00PM & 8:00PM
Sunday 3:00PM & 7:00PM
New World Stages

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Breezy, slightly-subversive, silly-at-times, too-often-safe…yet damned entertaining, Altar Boyz has been running to packed houses for over a year and it's pretty obvious why. It's the type of show that makes you instantly want to revisit it, with new friends, so you can gage their reaction AND so you can have some mindless fun all over again!

The musical is not groundbreaking or daring and it doesn't pretend to be. You can enjoy yourself whether you're a practicing Catholic or an atheist. But along the merriment way there are a few important messages that seep through about acceptance, tolerance and not selling out to the “evils” of the world and remaining true to yourself.

All that and five cute boys who sing their pants off (okay, not literally…this is NOT Naked Altar Boyz Singing..hmmm…maybe it should be-perhaps in the Amsterdam version…)

The plot is flimsy: Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan and Abraham (yes, Abraham!) are on a "Raise the Praise Tour" and their goal is to save every soul in the audience. That's pretty much it.

The score itself isn't the most memorable. Except for the exciting opening “We Are the Altar Boyz” and the moving finale, “I Believe”, most of the songs are generic pop. It's the way the boyz perform them that make it a joy to experience.

From the gleefully ironic, “I'm a Catholic,” sung to gay perfection by newcomer Zach Hanna, to the stamina-challenging “Body, Mind & Soul” which Ryan Duncan sings the crap out of, the boyz prove their stage prowess over and over.

As Matthew, Jason Celaya holds the show together and is the key standout performance. With more energy and sly sex appeal than all the Boy Bands, Celaya sends sparks whenever he's onstage (and that's the entire show, folks!)

For sheer kick-ass entertainment, seek worship with the inspirational and cute-as-the-devil Altar Boyz!

Book by Kevin Del Aguila; Music and Lyrics by Gary Adler & Michael Patrick Walker;
Conceived by Marc Kessler & Ken Davenport; Choreographed by Christopher Gattelli; Directed by Stafford Arima. Starring: Jason Celaya (Matthew); Zach Hanna (Mark); Andrew C. Call (Luke); Ryan Duncan (Juan); and Dennis Moench (Abraham).

Tickets $25.00-$75.00 at www.telecharge.com and 212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250

New World Stages|340 West 50th Street



Christopher John Campion's
Escape From Bellevue
Wednesday–Saturday @ 8PM
Open Run
The Village Theatre

Reviewed by Sharyn Jackson

There is perhaps no better symbol of New York's ability to wreak havoc on the mind than the psychiatric institution of Bellevue Hospital. Chris Campion, front man of the indie rock band Knockout Drops, had three stints in the infamous ward between 1983 and 2000. A rocker who partook in all the peripheral indulgences associated with that lifestyle, Campion now chronicles his encounters with poverty, addiction and suicidal depression in Escape From Bellevue. He offers an "anthem to unhinged misfits everywhere" of vibrantly acted monologues and catchy tunes at The Village Theatre, in the very neighborhood where he repeatedly self-destructed years ago.

Campion's hilarious circular tale could only have taken place in New York. He vividly brings the artist's Greenwich Village of yore to life, and his descriptions of Bellevue's atmosphere and fellow patients both tickle and provide the perfect amount of noir—"Bellevue was a never-ending Fellini movie."

The climax, expectedly, involves Campion's escape during his second committment, the first escape from Bellevue since 1963. As he runs from the hospital into the taxi-traffic-filled streets, he and the Knockout Drops exalt city life with the perfect high-energy soundtrack. Campion takes it one step further, tying in the 2003 blackout, and his sobriety, in a post-9/11 New York. It's a different city—a different Bleecker Street, even—than it was when Campion first encountered his demons. Campion is back where he started, but this time, with the ammunition of hope and a fine storytelling and musical sensibility, he's a New York survivor.

Written and performed by Christopher John Campion with live music by Knockout Drops. Directed by Alex Timbers.

Tickets $30 advance / $35 door for Wednesday & Thursday @ 8 PM; and $35 advance / $40 door for Friday & Saturday @ 8 PM. at www.ticketmaster.com and 212-307-7171. For more information: www.knockoutdrops.com.

The Village Theatre | 158 Bleecker St




Legally Blonde - The Musical
Wednesday 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Thursday 8:00PM
Friday 8:00PM
Saturday 2:00PM & 8:00PM
Sunday 2:00PM, 7:00PM & 8:00PM
The Palace Theatre


Reviewed by Katharine Heller
katharineheller.com


To compare Legally Blonde the Musical to great theater would be like putting a Twinkie up against the Miso Black Cod at Nobu. But goddamn it, sometimes, nothing beats a good Twinkie.

Based on the box office hit of the same title, Legally Blonde rarely strays from the original script. For the five of you who are not familiar with the premise of the story, I'll sum it up. Beautiful Delta Nu sorority sister Elle Woods is crushed when her beau Warner dumps her before leaving for Harvard Law. Elle applies and gets
accepted to Harvard (even though I would assume the application deadline had passed- I never quite got that part, although the rest of the story is perfectly plausible) in hopes to win back her man. Long story short she realizes she doesn't need Warner, makes some new friends and solves a murder case in court along the way.

The stage translation is exactly what you would expect, complete with spunky dance numbers, an energetic young cast and tunes so catchy I might consider quarantine for a good few hours after the show. I still cannot get the opening number, aptly called "Omigod, You Guys!" out of my head. No, seriously, it's pretty frustrating.

The fresh faced and immensely talented Laura Bell Bundy as Elle carries the show with grace and confidence. Right behind her are Richard H. Blake as the arrogantly hilarious Warner and Christian Borle as her sweet love interest, Emmett. The obvious cast standouts however are Chico as her faithful Chihuahua, Bruiser, and Chloe the Bulldog as Rufus. (Rufus is the dog of Elle's friend Paulette played
by the singly named human, Orfeh.)

The amusing book, written by Heather Hach with music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin, includes other engaging numbers such as the infamous, "Bend and Snap!" and "Gay or European". With crisp direction and choreography by Jerry Mitchell, this family friendly show is a lot of fun. Just make sure those you see it with have a sweet tooth.

Tickets $40.00-$110.00 212-307-4747 www.ticketmaster.com

Palace Theatre | 1554 Broadway




Michele Aldin's
The Program
Remaining Show: Monday, August 20th @ 3PM
The New School of Drama Theatre
2007 International Fringe Festival

Reviewed by Alison Ford

The “fish out of water” scenario is one of the great foundations of comedy. In its many permutations and variations, it can be either wildly successful (Beverly Hills Cop), or uncomfortably unfunny (Deuce Bigalow). On the spectrum of “fish out of water” comedies, The Program, currently running at the NY Fringe Festival, is a Deuce Bigalow.

The basic idea isn’t too bad – What might happen if a mafia family from Brooklyn was forced to enter witness protection and blend into small-town America? You might think that hilarity would ensue, but you would be wrong. With the popularity of both The Sopranos and Desperate Housewives, the worlds of both kingpins and PTA moms are current, fresh, and relevant right now. Unfortunately, playwright Michele Aldin has ignored the wealth of comic possibility inherent to what she claims is the plot, and instead has chosen to fill 90 minutes with strange, irrelevant psychobabble and so many other random themes that it’s easy to forget what you thought the play was supposed to be about in the first place.

At various times, the play seems to be about teen angst, mother abandonment, family relationships, child development, child abuse, and codependence. Fish-out-of-water stories are necessarily situational. Adding strange expressionist elements, a character that serves as a quasi-Greek chorus, and excessive breaking of the fourth wall doesn’t make things funnier. They make them complicated, and unnecessary complication is the enemy of humor. The humor is supposed to come from the juxtaposition of the character’s nature and the character’s new surroundings. Fat-guy-woos-hot-chick. Inner-city-cop-works-in-rich-suburb. Secret-service-agent-forced-to-change-diapers. Comedy is not supposed to come from throwing around terms like “minimal integration,” “familial patternmaker,” or other Piaget-esque psycho-terminology, and let me assure you – it doesn’t. Is this a play about the Witness Protection Program, a seminar on child development, or a Scientology induction? There are too many meaningless words in the dialogue – and not enough drama to make us care about listening to any of them. Despite all of the talking that happens, the characters never communicate any sort of truth or emotion.

Although it was the playwright’s choice to fill the play with meaningless words and phrases, rather than jokes or real dialogue, the acting feels like something straight out of a drama-club production. The play is presented by The New School, and this play does not live up to its usual quality. The direction is questionable at best, and the actors don’t seem to help to bring the production values up at all. Accents fade in and out, lines are mumbled and garbled, and the performances are just screechy and strident enough to be profoundly irritating. Most of the performers seem to subscribe to the method of acting where skill is equal to volume.

The most disappointing aspect of The Program was that the ostensible premise, which actually had some comic potential, was thrown aside in the name of making some kind of harebrained statement about…something. The resulting mishmash is not only non-sensical, it’s also supremely unfunny. In being confronted with so many strange ideas and half-baked themes, it’s impossible to care about any of them.

Tickets $15 - WWW.FRINGENYC.ORG or call: 212-279-4488


The New School of Drama Theatre| 151 Bank Street |Third Floor
Located b/t West & Washington Streets)
Subways: A,C,E to 14th Street L to 14th Street



Wendy MacLeod
Sin
July 18-29, 2007
Abingdon Theatre

Reviewed by Allison Ford

Having the good guy turn out to be the bad guy is just about the oldest trick in the book. It is well-tread ground, and movies, books, and plays have all used it, with varying degrees of success. The key to making this device work is keeping the audience in the dark as long as possible, because the satisfaction is found in the big reveal. Wendy MacLeod's Sin, playing at the Abingdon Theater, succeeds in all the small details, but the crucial mistake of revealing how it ends before the play's even started.

The protagonist of the play is Avery Bly, a soon-to-be divorced traffic reporter who looks down at the world (physically and metaphorically) from her helicopter. Set in San Francisco in 1989, just before the big earthquake, the various people in her life all represent one of the seven deadly sins. She passes judgment on them all, from her slothful soon-to-be-ex-husband to her gluttonous roommate. She never realizes her own sin of pride, until an act of God brings her "down from the heights" once and for all.

The seven deadly sins provide a wealth of possibility for any playwright, and Wendy MacLeod (writer of The House of Yes) is a highly capable writer. What's most interesting about Sin is that it deals with a very gray area. The seven deadly sins are a distinctly Catholic idea, and, accordingly, the play addresses distinctly Catholic conundrums. Even though Avery is moralistic and looks down on others for indulging in various sins, that doesn't make her a good person. That makes her prideful, which is another grave sin. So what's a well-meaning person to do? MacLeod never preaches about moral relativism; the message of the play is more subtle. She encourages us to accept imperfections both in others, and in ourselves.

The characters of the play, which include a greedy date, an envious co-worker, and a wrathful boss, mostly appear in short scenes, alone with Avery, and she is forced to make decisions of morality and ethics at every turn. The dialogue in the scenes is snappy, brisk, and insightful. The actors in this production are all capable, and I found myself wishing there were more time for character development. As it is currently written, they appear on stage for a scene or so, impart some truth, and then exit.

As Avery, actress Megan Hill displays an interesting sense of conflict. Although she does not display much outward emotion, often it is obvious that much is going on beneath the surface. She seems to represent a conscientious objector to the excess that was the 80's, and her disappointment and frustration with the other characters moral shortcomings is evident in every scene. Although she believes herself to be taking the moral high ground, she also never insinuates that she herself is perfect.

Although the characters are sharp and real, and the dialogue is well-written, the play feels ultimately unfulfilling, because we've always know what's coming. The metaphor of the judgmental traffic reporter feels heavy-handed and clumsy, and it seems that the supporting characters, however cleverly they might converse, represent tired 80's archetypes. Sin is billed as a "modern morality play," and it is successful at forcing the audience to confront the more unpleasant parts of their personalities. However, the play fails to generate any sort of dramatic tension. The program practically reads: "High-and-mighty girl thumbs her nose at the rest of the world, until she discovers that she's not so much better than them after all." Ultimately, it doesn't matter that the acting is great, or that the dialogue is clever and bitingly funny. Despite the fact that the characters and the setting are new, the story is one we've heard a thousand times before. And we know how it ends.


 

 

Steve Sater & Duncan Sheik’s
Spring Awakening
Monday 8:00pm
Wednesday 8:00pm
Thursday 8:00pm
Friday 8:00pm
Saturday 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sunday 2:00pm & 7:00pm
Eugene O'Neill Theatre

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

When I first heard that Spring Awakening was moving to Broadway, I was a bit concerned. Would such an intimate show lose all potency and urgency in a big Broadway house?

Well the answer, thank the theatre gods, is a resounding no!

I am elated to report that this exciting, enthralling and oddly-enchanting production thrives at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. And it’s improved greatly from the version I saw this past summer.

It’s still audacious and ambitious but it now has a wonderful sense of humor as well. The original production took itself a wee too seriously. But the gifted director Michael Mayer has found the perfect blend of comedy and pathos here. And it doesn’t hurt to have the extraordinary Christine Estabrook on board.

Based on Frank Wedekind’s highly controversial 1891 play The Awakening of Spring (not produced until 1906), and adapted by Steven Sater (book & lyrics) and rock star Duncan Sheik (music), the ‘play with songs’ (quoted by Sheik) focuses on adolescent schoolboys and girls at the age of sexual and spiritual awakening. The central figures being the good looking, wave-making Melchior (Jonathan Groff), his sweet, naive girlfriend Wendla (Lea Michele) and his troubled, oddball friend Moritz (John Gallagher, Jr.) as well as a slew of other angst-ridden, sexually-stirred, hormonally-bonkers characters.

Spring Awakening is mesmerizing to the eye--and ears. It’s a deliberately hard-edged visual and aural cacophony of the evils of repression--religious and societal (usually one begets the other).

The richly-rewarding anachronistic nature of the work adds to its originality and freshness. Although the piece is set at the turn of the last century, the actors whip out mikes and perform raw, intensely-modern rock songs. The device achieves a Brechtian break in the ‘period’ action. It’s as if the audience has warp-sped a century to a modern day rock concert. But the songs are the inner monologues and emotional mind states of Everykid. And that is why it works so well.

Sheik’s music is extraordinary, whether it be a heart-wrenching ballad (”The Song of Purple Summer”) or an angry rant (the fantastically fun “Totally Fucked”) and are matched by Sater’s intelligent lyrics and by the extraordinary ensemble’s vitality and conviction in song as well as performance. These guys were great last summer. They’re even better and seem more assured now.

“The Bitch of Living”, in particular, raises the levels through the rafters!

Melchior is that perfect blend of youth: a walking sack of sexual energy mixed with smarts and savvy and Jonathan Groff brilliantly brings him to life...and to despair as is necessary. Groff has a command now that is dazzling to behold.

Moritz is a tad more difficult since, as written he goes from frustration and confusion to doom very quickly, yet Gallagher, Jr. transcends the trappings and let’s us inside the loopy/scared mind of this tragic hero (especially in Act Two’s Don’t Do Sadness”).

Michele’s Wendla still feels too tentative as Wendla but she conveys naiveté much better and has an amazing voice. Lauren Pritchard’s Ilse still brims with sex appeal and evoked the perfect combo of tumult and rebellion. And king of smarm and charm, Jonathan B. Wright nails his role down perfectly as the gay survivor about to feast on his prey. His self-pleasure moment is a riotous combo of delight and embarrassment. Special mention to Gideon Glick as the adorable Ernst.

Newly added cast members Stephen Spinella, and especially, Christine Estabrook give the show a great lift as well.

Beyond the masterful score, near-perfect performances and deft direction, I had
a problem last time with feeling emotionally caught up in the lives of the characters. This, too, has changed. I DID feel passionately drawn into their worlds and I did care about their fates.

Spring Awakening is a triumph that should be seen by anyone who cares about the future of musical theatre.

Tickets $66.25-$111.25 at www.telecharge.com

Eugene O'Neill Theatre | 230 West 49th Street | New York, NY 10036




Twist
Aug 2, 3 & 4 @ 8PM
The Blackbird Studios
347 West 36th Street 13th Floor
August 5th @ 7PM
The WorkShop Theatre
312 West 36th Street 4th Floor


Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Twist, a musical based on Oliver Twist with a tantalizing twist all it’s own, is a surprisingly delicious blend of the camptastic and the grittily dramatic.

Quite faithful to the Dickens classic, the ‘twist’ in this Twist is defined in a lyric from the title song: “the characters here, all end up queer.” Well, perhaps not all of them, but certainly the more interesting ones!

Oh so many stage, film and television incarnations of Oliver Twist have popped up over the years. Most notably, the brilliant 1948 David Lean film, the beloved Lionel Bart musical from the 60’s and, more recently, Roman Polanski’s movie version starring Ben Kingsley as Fagin as well as a gay hustler film incarnation with Nick Stahl as Dodger.

Gila Sand has ambitiously directed and written the book, lyrics and even some of the music to this latest stage adaptation (along with composer Paul Leschen and Garrit Guadan). The result is a charming, entertaining if sometimes off-balance work. But the good far outweighs the missteps.

At this point I’d like to note that I attended the very first preview of Twist which is being presented by the Midtown International Theatre Festival, so rickety stage transitions and a particularly messy climactic tragedy must be forgiven and given up to the preview gods.

Most everyone knows the story, but, In this particular Twist, Oliver is quite the sexual being (he kinkily enjoys being whipped). As he journeys from orphanage hell to the dastardly and dangerous streets of London, he finds himself in dominatrix Fagin’s house of pickpockets and prostitutes. Here he falls for a hot and flirty Artful Dodger, who happens to be Fagin’s playtoy. He also meets another misfit, the rich and loopy Lady Downlow:

Lady Downlow: I don’t like boys that way.
Twist: (excitedly) Do you like girls, then?
Lady Downlow: No. I like shoes.

Although it is set in the late 1800’s, this Twist feels mightily contemporary as it tells a bleak and powerful tale of man’s inhumanity to man (or to boy, as is the case here) as well as the triumph of good over evil (or camp, in this case)!

There has never been an Oliver Twist quite like this one and Reymundo Santiago gives him a deeply-sensual, boyishly-quirky, madly-sexual quality. He is a boy searching for love and acceptance and Santiago captures that longing beautifully. And his singing is quite lovely as well--especially in the poignant “Bound and Tied.” Santiago is mesmerizing to watch and has great comic flair to boot (pun intended!).

Travis Morin is a crafty and convincing Artful Dodger. His seduction song, “Sucker,” is one of the show’s highlights. Morin manages to redefine Dodger and he completely suckers us (pun intended again) into believing him.

As villain Bill Sykes, Jason Griffith is allowed to shine in the final moments of the work. It’s a shame his character is relegated to menacing, (and sexy) window dressing prior to his inevitable scene of violence since more of this Sykes would have been a treat. His mistreated gal, Nancy, is played by the enchanting Shoshanna Richman. She is also far too fleetingly featured in this production.

Amanda Sasser is quite funny as Lady Downlow and ‘Bolero de la Talones’, her number with Oliver, is another highlight.

The entire featured ensemble rocks with scene stealer Martin Gould Cummings blazing through each of his roles with infectious relish!

Fagin is a wonderful yet problematic concoction. Definitely an audience-pleaser part, Garrit Guadan is quite splendid but his Fagin feels too much a hybrid. At times I felt he was channeling Charles Busch, Frank-N-Furter, Miss Coco and Marcia Cross to name a few!

And, ultimately, I felt this Fagin was not evil enough. The flamboyant drag part seemed to overwhelm the evil and greedy manipulator he should be. I never truly felt Oliver was in that much danger, except that he might get a stiletto kick to his butt--and he’d probably enjoy it! Fagin’s two star songs don’t help, since both are silly, showy bits as opposed to real character development numbers. A creepier tranny would have been more effective.

The rockish pop score (nominated for a 2007 Drama Desk Award) is quite impressive and truly takes off in the final act with the terrific “Slip Away” and the haunting “Night is Quick.” Both these numbers gave the final dramatic ‘twist’ in Twist a true power and intensity. It made me wish the earlier portion of the score was a bit less campy and, instead, as penetrating and potent as these two songs.

I think with some more book and score work and a few tweaks here and there, this Twist could be ready for an lengthy off-Broadway run very soon.

www.themusicaltwist.com

TWIST IN CONCERT The Blackbird Studio
347 West 36th Street
13th Floor
Aug 2, 3 & 4 @ 8PM

TWIST, FINAL NIGHT OF MITF SHOW: The WorkShop Theatre
312 West 36th Street 4th Floor
August 5th @ 7PM





Xanadu
Tuesday @ 8PM
Wednesday @ 2PM & 8PM
Thursday @ 8PM
Friday @ 8PM
Saturday @ 2PM & 8PM
Sunday @ 3PM
Opened July 10, 2007
Helen Hayes Theater


Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Okay, how bloody tiresome has it become for the Broadway theatregoer to have to withstand yet another screen-to-stage translation? In recent years, we’ve had to suffer through the abysmally bad (Saturday Night Fever, Footloose) and the not-so-bad-but-why-the-frig-bother (The Wedding Singer, Legally Blonde). And then there’s Disney, in the ‘ you own the world so just stop it already’ category. All this appropriation has shown a complete lack of originality and proven producers have no faith in the audience.

Of course, no one has tackled the bad Hollywood movie musical adaptation yet. Then again, exactly how many bad Hollywood movie musicals can actually boast having a terrific score? Not that many. Certainly very few in the last thirty years. Actually one. A notorious debacle from 1980 known as Xanadu.

Now, I have to admit to having my own personal love/hate relationship with the screen mess known as Xanadu. Every time I watch it (and yes, I have watched it many times) I keep waiting for it to be different. I keep wanting the performances to improve and I keep praying someone will come along and actually DIRECT and CHOREOGRAPH those great songs (written by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar) in some way that isn’t catastrophically impossible to watch. Alas, I am always disappointed.

Yet I keep revisiting Xanadu. Why? I have never quite figured it out. It isn’t even a very campy film--the kind that’s so bad it’s good. But it does feature Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly...and a tiny spark of a good idea...and have I mentioned the fantastic score?

When I read about plans to bring it to Broadway, I thought: “well, it couldn’t possibly be as bad as the film.” Then I read that Douglas Carter Beane, thanks to the dogged persistence of producer Robert Ahrens, had been cajoled into writing the book. At that point, I knew it would have some merit. And I knew that if anyone could tap into the reason why so many folks are Xanadu-obsessed, it was Beane. After all he was responsible for the brilliantly biting and insightful play, The Little Dog Laughed, the funniest work to hit Broadway in the last few years. (and of course it closed prematurely!) My hopes were high.

Then casting problems followed as well as the leading male (James Carpinello, the only good thing in Saturday Night Fever) being injured while skating and having to be replaced. Was all this a sign?

I am elated to report that--Spring Awakening notwithstanding--Xanadu is the best musical currently running on Broadway! Actually, it’s the smartest and most entertaining musical to open in quite a long time!

How could this be, you ask?

It’s fairly simple. Assemble the best creative team possible. Cast actors who are working at the top of their game. Shake. Stir. Shimmy. Skate!

Part of the heavenly ‘magic’ on display at the Helen Hayes Theatre has everything to do with a keen awareness of the tongue-in-cheeky satire at play. But no one ever condescends to the audience. Quite the contrary, they invite the audience in on all the jokes (and they are legion).

Beane has written an intelligent, witty and clever script and manages to work several miracles in the process. Firsty, he remains faithful to the original film while drastically improving the story, making spendid script alterations and adding much-needed character dimensions. He creates a believable, old-fashioned love story where the audience roots for Kira and Sonny--even though she’s a Greek daughter-of-Zeus pretending to be an Australian and he’s a mere mortal AND struggling artist.

Beane also does justice to each and every one of his cast of characters, so rare in a musical, especially one that clocks in at ninety minutes! Finally, he has penned a ton of ovation-inspiring one-liners that will have you howling with laughter.

The tremendously talented director, Christopher Ashley (along with choreographer Dan Knechtges), ingeniously finds enormously entertaining ways to stage those wonderful ditties mentioned earlier (so poorly rendered onscreen). From the delightful opening number, “I’m Alive” to the sensational title tune at the end, Xanadu explodes with an exuberant and euphoric energy and life, most musicals would kill for.

A new Broadway star is born in Kerry Butler. She is absolutely remarkable as Kira/Clio. Having seen her shine in Hairspray, Little Shop of Horrors and the devilishly delightful Bat Boy, I was still wholly unprepared for her performance here. She has perfect comic-timing and displays so much verve and charisma, you will truly have a tough time taking your eyes off of her. She also happens to be quite stunning. Her Kira is a rich parody of Newton-John infused with some daffy Nicole Kidman, yet she creates a loveable, complicated and quite memorable character that is ultimately her own. She also happens to have a powerhouse voice and is particularly divine singing “Magic” and “Suspended in Time.” Butler fascinates right up until the curtain call.

When you are able to look away from Butler, Cheyenne Jackson (All Shook Up) provides delicious eye-candy, but so much more than that. From his very first bit of dialogue, he seduces the audience and endears himself as a loveable lump of a hunk, wide-eyed and earnest. It’s a fabulous performance, filled with comedic gem moments. Jackson is also an excellent songman, tearing the roof off with the showstopping “Don’t Walk Away.” And, boy, does he look good in those denim shorts. Yikes!

Tearing through the production like two hungry tigresses are stage vets Mary Testa (as Melpomene, muse of Tragedy) and Jackie Hoffman (as Calliope, muse of Epics). These two scenery-chewing vamps have a bloody blast with their parts. The duo’s rendition of “Evil Woman” is rousing and ‘nasty’, in the best sense of that word. Testa’s turn is particularly Tony-courting.

The rest of the ensemble seem to be having the time of their lives as well with Curtis Holbrook providing a killer tap dance during “Whenever You’re Away from Me”. Veteran stage actor, Tony Roberts has his own fun in the Gene Kelly role and really impresses as Zeus. One of the oh-so-may highlights involves both the song “Have You Never Been Mellow” and the Harryhausen film Clash of the Titans. I can’t say more, lest I spoil a classic musical theatre moment.

So, what is it that Beane and the Xanadu team are able to do what the original filmmakers couldn’t? Because...they have found the magic in Xanadu as well as the irony and the joy. They tell a simple love story in a complex and interesting way. They comment on art and the creative gifts that are given to us. And they show us a damn good time while doing it. What more could we ask for? Okay, maybe just ninety minutes more, because once you see this show, you will want to see it again...

Xanadu Tickets $51.25-$111.25 Buy tickets online www.telecharge.com - Phone 212-239-6200 & 800-432-7250


Helen Hayes |240 W. 44th Street


 

 


 

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