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On Saturday, December 18th, 2010, I attended the enjoyable concert at the Kaye Playhouse, conducted by Orlando Alonso and sponsored by the Cuban Cultural Center of New York. The highlight of the program was the first work played, a magnificent, sensuous performance of Mozart's gorgeous, thrilling Piano Concerto in A Major, K. 488, played by outstanding soloist, Orlay Alonso but excellently complemented at every turn by the orchestra in superb form. This was followed by an effective account of Robert Schumann's Fantasie for Violin and Orchestra, with the fine violinist, Heesun Shin, while the concert concluded with an agreeable reading of Chopin's lesser Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in F Minor, with skilled soloist Juana Zayas at the piano.
Ossia Symphony OrchestraDecember 18, 2010Kaye Playhouse695 Park Avenue #5New York, NY 10065212-772-4448
Sweeping onto the serviceable if petite stage of the St. Luke’s Theatre (West 308 W. 46th Street), lovely Richard Skipper, with Channing's signature platinum hairdo, wide crimson smile and glittering deep-red, sparkly dress greets the audience with the quavering vibrato of the fabulous Ms. Channing. On each of her fingers is a sizable bauble the size of golfballs, which she flings, one at a time, as she belts out, “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” Regrettably, we sat too far back to reap any of the diamonds from the throws.
After a lifetime of friendship with the original -- and 18 of them performing this enormously sweet and pleasing tribute impersonation -- Skipper has the tropes down pretty accurately.
In a 90-minute performance that includes all the beloved classics from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Hello Dolly, as well as other movies and plays not as well-remembered but whose songs linger rhapsodically in the collective unconscious, Skipper/Channing provided a full-throated, boffo evening without intermission -- beginning December 22, 2010, with an opening on January 12, 2011.
Cheery beyond measure (as is the original), comic above expectations (ditto), Skipper handles the imperfect and often nutty tourist and resident attendees’ questions/comments with aplomb and unfailing charm. In the audience were some famed TV and radio and stage personalities, all of whom were graciously and kindly introduced to the crowd.
Not once in the evening did she slip into the voice of the man inhabiting the woman inhabiting the stage. Behind her, posters and photos of the immortal La Channing -- pictures from the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s -- dazzled the audience's eye. The audience pre-filled in questions that Ms. Channing answered, which is where the wheat separated from the chaff. Comic timing and hilarious put-downs -- always with a smile -- wowed the listener.
The mission of the production in addition to entertaining, according to Associate Producer Edmund Gaynes, is to present show biz “as it used to be.” Good-natured, lilting and cherished show tunes (accompanied by a gifted musical ensemble), wrapped-up cabaret history in a cerise sheath dress. Nothing interferes with the painless hark-back to a few decades ago.
Treat yourself to winning speculations on the vagaries of talent, marriage, and the nature of succeeding on Broadway. Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, enjoy them guiltlessly -- and slightly off-Broadway.
P.S.: Carol knows and adores this guy, and loves what he does with her life and stage.
Richard Skipper as Channing308 West 46th StreetNew York, NY 10036(212) 246-8140
Beginning December 22, 2010, with an opening on January 12, 2011 and a closing on January 26th, 2011
I can’t remember when I’ve seen a play as hokey and charming and full of fun as “Brief Encounter.” Okay, I take that back. It was “The 39 Steps.” But not surprising, it is also a spoof of an iconic British film, that one by Alfred Hitchcock. This one is by Noël Coward. If you want to have a very good time, go to this production. But notice the deeper meaning underneath it all.
Brief Encounter was a one-act play before it was a film, so Emma Rice has done a good turn by bringing it back to the stage, this time as a musical! We are in Milford Junction, in Surrey, England, in 1938.
By chance, two people meet at the train station café when Laura (Hannah Helland), a housewife, gets a speck in her eye, and Alec (Tristan Sturrock), a doctor, takes it out. From there grows true love.
But they are already married. We see Laura’s husband Fred (Joseph Alessi), older and rather boring. We never know Alec’s wife. The lovers meet from time to time at the station, at lunches in London, and in a borrowed apartment during an affair that seems as much consumed by anguish and guilt as by joy.
Laura wants to be free, to have a life that is exiting and fulfilling, not to be stuck in the humdrum middle class home we see ruled by her husband.
Pretty hokey in our time, no? So adapter/director Emma Rice goes with the hokey. We hear the movie’s overdone style of their dialogue, from her “Please we must be sensible?” to his, “I love you and you love me too. There’s no use pretending this hasn’t happened, because it has.”
We see the characters push through a screen to appear in the real film. The video of a toy train gets pulled along a clothes line of hanging sheets. We see and hear films of waves crashing on rocks during unseen moments of passion. (When did crashing waves come to symbolize sex?)
Helland and Sturrock are perfect in the roles, with just the right level of controlled ardor and overwrought speech. They could have been cast in the original film.A couple of other romances play out with the excellent cast: the over-the-top tea shop owner (Annette McLaughlin) and her railroad employee boyfriend (Alessi) and a very erotic couple, the tea shop worker (Dorothy Atkinson) and her suitor (Gabriel Ebert).
A first-rate band featuring accordion, trumpet, bass, banjo and piano presents a host of Coward treats, including a satiric, sexy “Mad About the Boy.” And that gets most directly to what is agreed to be Coward’s underlying, unspoken theme of the play, which was the difficulty of having gay relationships in the 1930s. They were as forbidden as sex outside marriage.
Then, desire and disappointment in love is universal. It is to Rice’s credit and the audience’s great enjoyment that she turns this very serious drama into a lark.
Brief EncounterWritten by Noël Cowardadapted and directed by Emma RiceKneehigh Theatre of London productionRoundabout Theatre Company at Studio 54254 West 54th StreetNew York City212-719-1300Opened Sept. 28, 2010 and closes Jan. 2, 2011.
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