Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.
The third and last in Musicals In Mufti’s Jule Styne series is 1961/62 Subways Are For Sleeping. Handicapped by initially negative reviews and the MTA’s unwillingness to post ads, producer David Merrick famously secured and printed laudatory quotes from ordinary people with the same names as New York critics. Though the stunt was discovered, publicity helped box office. Lyricist Adolph Green’s wife, Phyllis Newman, won the Tony Award that year for Best Supporting Actress. It’s easy to imagine her comic abilities in the role of kooky Martha Vail. I find it curious Subways hasn’t been revived before now. It has charm and more than a few worthy songs.
Eric William Morris and Alyse Alan Louis
Young magazine journalist Angie McKay (Alyse Alan Lewis) pitches an article to her editor Myra (Beth Glover) about an underground populous who dress like businessmen but are, in fact, homeless and without employment. The men gather daily at Grand Central Station where nominal leader, Tom Bailey (Eric William Morris), dispenses information on places to safely sleep and short term jobs. Bailey gets these tips from doormen and superintendents to whom he altruistically delivers coffee. Somehow the homeless eat and keep their suits clean, narrowly escaping vagrancy laws. They seem a fairly accepting lot – no drama here. Survival methodology is part cleverness, part fairytale.
David Josefsberg and Gina Milo
Angie and Tom naturally fall in love. Meanwhile, once wealthy underground denizen, Charlie (David Josefsberg), and sweet, dumb blonde, ex-pageant contestant Martha Vail (Gina Milo) – who spends almost the entire show in a towel (just shrug it off) – also become a couple. Angie gets a conscience, Charlie acquires ambition. It all works out in a way that helps street people as far as imagination reaches.
Alyse Alan Louis (Angie) has a lovely voice, but performs with so little expression we literally observe nothing but a smile at the end. Surely the character feels something else over the course of the story.
In contrast, Eric William Morris (Tom) is appealingly animated throughout. Immediately credible, we feel more sympathetic towards his character than the leading lady, not, I think what the show’s authors intended. Morris has a fine voice and moves with spirit.
Karl Joseph Co, Beth Glover, Kilty Reidy, David Engel, Kathryn McCreary, Gerry McIntrye, Alyse Alan Louis, Eric William Morris
Gina Milo plays Martha as if the part were written for her. She’s an excellent comedienne replete with southern accent, habitually flirty demeanor, smarter-than-she-seems innocence, and below-the-surface tenderness.
David Josefberg is adorable as the uber-sincere, completely smitten Charlie. His number “I Just Can’t Wait” (to see you with clothes on) is a comic highlight. An actor of multi-faceted talent.
The assembled cast is vivacious. Direction by Stuart Ross is zippy and evocative despite the minimalism of Mufti. Lacey Erb’s Projection Design splendidly substitutes for scenery. Many photos are so specific, they appear to have been shot for the piece.
Also featuring: David Engel, Kilty Reidy, Karl Josef Co, Gerry McIntyre, Beth Glover, Kathryn McCreary, Beth Glover
Photos by Ben Strothmann
Opening: Top row (left to right): Beth Glover, Kilty Reidy, Karl Joseph Co, Gerry McIntrye, David Engel, Kathryn McCreary. Seated (left to right): Eric William Morris, Alyse Alan Louis, Gina Milo, David Josefsberg
The York Theatre Company presents Musicals in Mufti Subways Are For Sleeping Book and Lyrics-Betty Comden and Adolph Green Suggested by the book by Edmund G. Love Music – Jule Styne Directed by Stuart Ross Music Direction/Piano-David Hancock Turner; George Farmer- Bass The York Theatre 619 Lexington Ave. in St. Peter’s Church Through March 4, 2018 NEXT: The Musical of Musicals -The Musical April 9, 2018
York Theatre’s 108th Musicals in Mufti, Hallelujah Baby!, was an attempt by its four liberal authors to put salve on race torn America. It won the Best Musical Tony Award in 1968 and made a star of young Leslie Uggams. In 2004, feeling its take on the black experience had been too soft, book writer Arthur Laurents endeavored to rectify this for a revival with changes in script and additional lyrics by Adolph Green’s daughter, Amanda Green. The story remains sketchy, but has perhaps removed its rose colored glasses.
Georgina (Stephanie Umoh) shepherds us through one African American woman’s history from 1910 to 1960 (with epilogue). Neither she nor other characters age outwardly (she’s 25), but all must deal with societal change affecting thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
Stephanie Umoh and Tally Sessions
Mamma was a slave. (Vivian Reed with attitude, spot-on timing and splendid vocals.) She accepts her role as a cleaning lady, even putting on exaggerated accent and obeisance to please those for whom she works. Rules are clear, expectations minimal. Her daughter neither “cringes nor shuffles” sufficiently. Georgina is a proud rebel. She wants her “own morning,” bed, man…Sweetheart Clem (a sincere Jarran Muse), puts weekly money towards a house whose price rises every time they almost have enough. Her life seems mapped.
Unexpectedly approached by a white man – Harvey (Tally Sessions) who’s putting on a play at the local Bijou Theater, Georgina finds herself ironically cast as exactly the kind of maid she’s refused to be in real life. Still, it’s a role, she’s earning her own money and, for the first time, perceives a way out. When the white theater owner (Michael Thomas Holmes, terrific as a wide variety of distinctively realized characters) objects to a black woman onstage, Harvey quits. Not only is he completely without prejudice, he’s sweet on her.
Tally Sessions, Vivian Reed, Jarran Muse
Through the years, Harvey and Clem move from profession to profession while competing for the feisty, ambitious Georgina – not the most likeable heroine you’ll ever meet. She puts vociferously them both off – Clem because he often doesn’t approve of her choices and never seems to offer enough, and the utterly selfless Harvey because she sees the impossibility of an interracial couple- and really, still loves Clem. Mamma, who tags along with her daughter’s upward mobility, never lets go of her own cynical views.
There’s bigotry/segregation, gambling, bootlegging, performing in feathers, squatting in an abandoned Chinese restaurant, entering theaters by the back door, the WPA – including musical Shakespeare, breadlines, Communism, USO work (still segregated), the first time someone address Georgina as “m’am”, an apartment with a river view, the Civil Rights Movement, performing at The White House…
In a larger sense, the musical is about realizing who your bretheren are and taking responsibility.
Also featuring Randy Donaldson, Bernard Dotson Jennifer Cody (who adds spark) and Latoya Edwards
Stephanie Umoh has a powerful, clear voice. The actress is convincingly frustrated, selfish and aggressive. She seems to add pith to the show that Uggams didn’t possess.
Tally Sessions’ Harvey is believable from the get-go. The actor brings authenticity to every speech, glance, and song. He has fine vocal style and is thoroughly appealing.
Director Gerry McIntyre is adept with both vivacity and gravitas. Choreography is appropriate and fun; emotional moments theatrically credible. Southern accents land.
Photos by Ben Strothmann Opening: Jarran Muse, Vivian Reed, Stephanie Umoh
Musicals in Mufti NEXT: February 10-18 Bar Mitzvah Boy Don Black/Jule Styne February 24-March 4 Subways Are For Sleeping Betty Comden/Adolph Green/ Jule Styne
The York Theatre Company’s Musicals in Mufti presents Hallelujah Baby! Music-Jule Style; Lyrics-Betty Comden, Adolph Green Additional Lyrics-Amanda Green Book- Arthur Laurents Directed by Gerry McIntyre Music Direction/Piano- David Hancock Turner; Bass- Richie Goods Through Sunday February 4, 2018 York Theatre 619 Lexington Avenue at St. Peter’s Church
Someone has beaten you, dear world/Someone has blinded you, dear world/And those who love you defiantly insist/That you get off that critical list…
Another uncomfortably timely offering from Musicals in Mufti, 1969’s Dear World, is a so-called fantasy about a group of corporate heads, all called “Mr. President” who, having nothing better to do with excessive undirected funds, back a Prospector (Gordon Stanley- resonant vocals) in a plan to excavate Paris for oil they believe lies beneath the city. (The original piece was written in 1943. Capitalization required here? $50,000.) Greed, as Gordon Gekko (Wall Street) later declared, is good. Pollution is not an issue. People are expendable.
Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, Peter Land, Gordon Stanley, J. Bernard Calloway, Stephen Mo Hanan
Said plot is cleverly thwarted by Countess Aurelia, The Madwoman of Chaillot (Tyne Daly), whose harmless delusions, sense of justice, and innate wisdom aid, rather than hamper, dealing with the threat. Aurelia conscripts friends and neighbors: Madame Constance (Alison Fraser imbues her character with feminine fragility), Madame Gabrielle (Ann Harada, a bit chirpy but fine with her invisible dog), the local café waitress Nina (Erika Hemmingsen, engaging innocence, lovely voice), Julian, at first The Presidents’ secretary, then part of the opposition (Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, earnest, winning), The Sergeant (Dewey Caddell), The Waiter (Ben Cherry), and The Sewerman (Lenny Wolpe, always a pleasure to watch, here marvelous). “Did you get my lily,” the Countess asks. “It should have floated by around 11:30.”
Ann Harada, Tyne Daly, Alison Fraser
The Presidents – “Have a Little Pity on the Rich” – are Peter Land (wry and effective), J. Bernard Calloway, and Stephen Mo Hanan. Oh, and there’s a village Mute – Kristopher Thompson-Bolden whose mime is poorly executed.
Everything revolves around gently demented Countess Aurelia who sees her “Dear World” through rose-colored glasses. The lady’s absent-minded reasoning has charm and its own iconoclastic logic. Changing a man’s name is easier than changing men. A lost feather boa turns up on the hat stand near the hall mirror, unnoticed because “I never look in the mirror on account of the old woman in the glass.” Both musical and chronicle rests on her shoulders. A secondary storyline unites Nina and Julian, the pure of heart with the defector.
Tyne Daly, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, Erika Hemmingsen
Tyne Daly is dotty, tender, stubborn, and, in context, believable. She’s chosen to deliver her lines in short, nervous, blinking phrases adding to personality. Moments of deep recollection are emphatically touching. Daly’s voice is open-throated and fine.
Of course, things work out fine, at least in so far as we can see. How many shows can you call to mind where murder is benign? Arsenic and Old Lace, perhaps. Any other? Still we’re unequivocally on the side of those angels. Were current problems as easily solved, who knows what boundaries might be crossed?
Kristopher Thompson-Bolden, Erika Henningsen, Ben Cherry, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, Lenny Wolpe, Tyne Daly
Director Michael Montel might have a little more fun with his characters.
Christopher McGovern (Music Director/Piano) and Louis Tucci (Bass/Accordion ) provide splendid arrangements and musicianship.
Apparently costuming themselves from their own closets, the actors look sufficiently like their characters to carry the mood. Countess Constance and Countess Gabrielle’s headwear is perfection.
Not one of Jerry Herman’s best efforts, but still rather charming in its entirety.
Photos by Ben Strothmann
Opening: Tyne Daly
The York Theatre Company’s Musicals in Mufti presents Dear World
Music & Lyrics by Jerry Herman
Book by Jerome Lawrence And Robert E. Lee
Based on The Madwoman of Chaillot by Jean Giraudoux
As adapted by Maurice Valency
New Version by David Thompson
Through March 5, 2017
The York Theatre in St. Peter’s Church
619 Lexington Avenue
Next on the main stage new musical Marry Harry staring April 25, 2017
Jerry Herman’s first (1961) Broadway effort has Israeli flavor (including Hebrew) without awkwardness or polemic. Herman and book writer Don Appell were sent abroad by producer Gerard Oestreicher to immerse themselves in the pioneer state about to celebrate its 13th Anniversary (a Bar Mitzvah). They created a sympathetic sketch steeped in traditional settlement values whose moral compass is in no way exclusively Jewish. Milk and Honey is full of (appreciatively cliché) humor. Its warm, primary relationships eschew rose colored glasses.
We first meet the busload of touring American widows on the streets of Jerusalem. Mrs. Kessler (Marcy DeGonge Manfredi), Mrs. Perlman (Joy Hermalyn), Mrs. Segal (Joanne Lessner), and Mrs. Weiss- Clara (Alix Korey) “tell me everything, don’t leave out a word” have come as much to find husbands as to broaden their horizons. Mrs. Stein-Ruth (Anne Runolfsson) joined the group to break a pattern of hen parties and memories.
Alix Korey, who plays Clara, a role originated by Molly Picon, is flat out terrific. Not only does the respected veteran remind us once again of vocal skill, but comic timing is impeccable, accent pitch perfect, and the actress segues to more serious moments with utter finesse. There are many reasons to enjoy this production, but Korey is a prime one. Her “Hymn to Hymie” (Clara’s deceased husband) is wonderful.
When a shepherd (Ari Axelrod in one of several roles) tries to drive his flock on a main thoroughfare (music stands tied together, each with a printed sign that says: SHEEP), American Phil Arkin (Mark Delevan) calms the crowd. Ruth asks him to translate. They connect. A retired businessman, Phil has skeptically come to visit his daughter Barbara (Jessica Fontana) and meet her new husband David, a Sabra. (A Jew born on Israeli territory.) The young people live in the Negev. “Give your daughter a European education and she brings home a farmer.”
Perry Sherman, Jessica Fontana (David and Barbara)
Phil impulsively asks Ruth to join Barbara and him touring the city. They have a wonderful day. She’s then invited to the desert. Putting aside a lifetime of reservations, she goes, seamlessly pitching in and fitting in. The middle aged couple credibly fall in love, for the first time seeing options both thought were unavailable. Unfortunately Phil still has a much estranged, eventually revealed wife.
Jacob Heimer, Abby Goldfarb (Adi & Zipporah)
Secondarily, we watch Barbara and her husband David (Peter Sherman- warm presence, good accent, fine voice) deal with her adjustment from upper middle class city life to agronomy, and malcontent farmer Adi (Jacob Heimer- good accent, solid acting and vocal) negotiate pregnancy and marriage (in that order) with girlfriend Zipporah (Abby Goldfarb- ably spirited.)
Milk and Honey is about second chances, integrity, courage, and partnerships.
Joy Hermalyn, Alix Korey, John Little (Mrs. Perlman, Clara, Mr. Horowitz)
Anne Runolfsson has a strong, mid range soprano. The actress grows into her role before our eyes, at first less than natural, but gradually troubled and infectiously moved as a compelling Ruth Stein. Opera singer Mark Delavan lends not only deep, resonant vocals, but thoughtful rendering of dialogue (which gives us time to watch the character consider) and tenderness that makes Phil Arkin always believable. The two voices blend beautifully.
Mark Delavan, Anne Runolfsson
Director Michael Unger does a splendid job with both lively and touching numbers. His actors have a good sense of where and when they are. Intimacy is well played. Pacing is just right. Visuals appeal. Only a parenthesis where the widows involve audience members feels uncomfortable.
Choreography by Yehuda Hyman is cute (not cloying) and appropriately ethnic.
Also featuring: John Little
This is the land of Milk and Honey/ This is the land of sun and song and /
This is the world of good and plenty /Humble and proud and young and strong
Photos by Ben Strothmann Opening: Mark Delavan, Anne Runolfsson, Alix Korey (Phil, Ruth, Clara)
The York Theatre Company Musicals in Mufti! Milk and Honey Book-Don Appell; Music & Lyrics- Jerry Herman Directed by Michael Unger Music Direction- Jeffrey Saver Through February 5, 2017 The York Theatre at St. Clements 619 Lexington Avenue at 54th Street NEXT: February 11-19: Berlin to Broadway