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.
Playwright Lindsey Ferrentino was inspired to write this piece by questions surrounding her Aunt Amy, born with Down Syndrome “during a time when medical professionals told my grandparents they had just given birth to a ‘Mongolian idiot’ who would never learn to read or write…” Like the character in her play, Amy was put into a state-funded institution where she surpassed presumptions, but was only visited by family on holidays and vacations. Ferrentino insisted than an actor with Down Syndrome play the role.
Jacob (Mark Blum) and Maggie (Debra Monk) have flown respectively from California and Chicago to bury their father on Staten Island. They bicker with some warmth, but it’s clear the two are not close. The familiar actors are low key, natural, and amusing; skilled with sympathetic banter and timing.
Debra Monk, Jamie Brewer, Mark Blum
On the way, the siblings pick up younger sister Amy (Jamie Brewer of American Horror Story – handily in command ) who’s spent her life in a succession of state institutions. The two still think of her as a child and show up with balloons. How will they break the news? How does one explain death to a challenged mind?
As their father legally turned over primary care – surprise! – Amy’s principal attendant must, they’re told, accompany her. So much for private family bonding. Fortunately, Kathy (a credible Vanessa Aspillaga) is warm, attentive, and intimately knows the young woman whom her brother and sister find a stranger. Surprise?! Kathy’s also loud, talkative, dutifully intrusive, and a bit too much of a cliché.
Amy is sufficiently functional to hold down a job at a local movie theater (chauffeured by the institution van) and acquire a boyfriend oddly named Nick Nolte. Though on the spectrum, she’s nowhere near as immature or oblivious as her relatives concluded. Neither, it seems, has spoken directly with her for years.
John McDermitt and Jamie Brewer
Growing up, every visit from the family entailed going to the movies – clearly a way to avoid talking. The only consistent thing in Amy’s life has been film. She peppers conversation with a remarkable array of applicable quotes and won’t be parted from a fully loaded laptop with headphones.
The above plays out in tandem with backstory scenes featuring two young people who turn out to be Maggie and Jake’s parents. Sarah (Diane Davis) is falling apart under the pressures of caring for a baby who’s diagnosed as hopeless, in addition to two other children and husband Bobby (Josh McDermitt).
It turns out that Amy’s real history is a far cry from the one Maggie and Jake imagined. The startling truth radically affects both feelings about their parents and their own consciences. Perspective adjusts with a deafening screech. Now what?
(Amy’s double entendre curtain speech of movie quotes cleverly gives her the last word – Guess that film!)
“…I have always depended on the kindness of strangers. But no more. I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!! I am serious. Don’t call me Shirley. I’m Bond. James Bond….”
Director Scott Ellis does a good, if not especially original job.
The writing is not as compelling as the subject matter.
Photos by Joan Marcus Opening: Vanessa Aspillaga, Jamie Brewer, Debra Monk, Mark Blum
Roundabout Theatre Company presents Amy and the Orphans by Lindsey Ferrentino Directed by Scott Ellis Laura Pels Theatre 111 West 46th Street Through April 22, 2018
In the first five minutes, John Lithgow generates the kind of sentiment one experiences with the ephemeral fragrance of something mom cooked when you were a kid, light like the night you were first kissed, a tune flashing back to some sweet memory. Gentle, genial and authentic, the artist creates a comfort zone in which tension fades and spirits rise. Settle in. Attend. You’ll be glad you came.
“This, O my Best Beloved, is a story-a new and wonderful story-a story quite different from other stories…” (Rudyard Kipling- Just So Stories)
The art of storytelling has been with us from time immemorial. “Why do all of us want to hear stories,” Lithgow asks. “Why do some of us want to tell them? Why are you all here today? Think about that for a minute.” He disarmingly gives us the minute. This show, beautifully honed over a ten year period, is comprised of two short, enacted stories the performer’s father read to him as a child, loving memories of Arthur Lithgow, and, implicitly, philosophical answers to the above questions.
Lithgow père was a theater man to his bones, a “restless and prolific” producer/ director always “one step away from ruination.” (Mom Sarah Jane was a retired actress.) At the callow age of eight, a night out might mean Titus Andronicus. Bedtime stories ranged from Poe and Conan Doyle to Hemingway and “Collette, for God’s sake!” Arthur Lithgow played all the parts. “My life as an actor started on those drowsy evenings…” his son wistfully recalls.
The only stage prop this afternoon is a well worn copy of Tellers of Tales– selected by Somerset Maugham- copyright 1939. “This book, this actual copy, was a kind of family Bible….When I hold it in my hands now…pause…my father comes back.” The spine is repaired with red duct tape, the binding with cellophane, yet despite all that attention, its cover was restored upside-down. “That was my Dad: thoughtful, caring, meticulous, literate, inventive, handy…and just that little bit wrong-headed,” he says tender and bemused.
In Haircut, “written in the 1920s by a gin-swilling cynic named Ring Lardner,” Lithgow becomes Whitey, a long-winded, self important, small town gossip regaling an invisible stranger, his captive audience, in a raised leather chair. Merely untucking his shirt, an adroit light change, and we’re back there and then. (Kudos to Lighting Designer Kenneth Posner who subtly affects and enhances throughout.)
Mime – from spritz, clip, and dollop to patting on aftershave, is meticulous. The customer’s head never varies its position. Watch Lithgow’s fanny – jerk around the misjudged front of his client. Sound effects are wonderful. I lost count of the character’s distinctive laughs/giggles at eight.
Midwestern words like winda (window) Saurdee (Saturday) and n’well emerge tripingly off the tongue. We’re drawn in by what appears to be a blithe spirit only to find ourselves caught up in adultery and violence. Whitey suddenly goes quiet as memories visibly parade behind his eyes like Zoetrope images. Aaaaand… lights! Pacing is impeccable.
Act II begins with the last year of Arthur Lithgow’s life. The octogenarian needed help with everything, which is precisely what John gave him. “I was in way over my head and unbearably sad…” At a loss how to raise his hero out of deep depression, the actor decided to read aloud. He retrieved the patched up Tellers of Tales and, on a wing and a prayer, asked which story his parents would prefer. They chose P.G. Wodehouse’s Uncle Fred Flits By.
If you’re at all familiar with Wodehouse, you can imagine what straits Pongo Twistleton’s Uncle Fred gets them into when, one rainy afternoon in the country, he misrepresents their identities, fabricates a family scandal, and manages to finagle the forbidden marriage of a poor “pink chap” who jellies eels to a pretty, upper middle class girl. Oh, and then there’s the parrot! (Lithgow does parrot cum laude.)
The performer’s exaggerated characterization and Monty-Python-worthy walks are accompanied by an arsenal of voices. Between action and REaction he demonstrates the timing of good farce. Male expressions look like John Held Jr. jazz age drawings, women’s rather like fish. Lithgow is, by the way, not reading. Both dramatizations are learned and acted out. Somewhere, midway into performing the story for Arthur and Sarah Jane, magic happened.
And this, O Best Beloved, is why we tell stories and why we listen.
John Lithgow is warm, inventive, and utterly charming. He owns every moment of this potent pleasure from hokum to heartache. One can only hope there’s a sequel.
This version of the presentation is directed by Dan Sullivan whose talents here are both broad and nuanced. There’s never a dull moment.
Photos by Joan Marcus
Roundabout Theatre Company presents John Lithgow: Stories By Heart Adapted and Performed by John Lithgow Directed by Daniel Sullivan American Airlines Theater 227 West 42nd Street Through March 4, 2018
1960. Immigrants Ludovica Musculino (Alyssa Bresnahan) – think restrained Anna Magnani – and her abusive husband Nic (Michael Rispoli), cliché except for an undershirt, scrape by in a tenement apartment in Brooklyn. We learn nothing of Nic’s life outside home, but Luda has inadvertently captured the heart of Irish butcher, widower Albert Duffy (Erik Lochtefeld) from whom she gets attention and discreet support.
Faith in God having been severely tested, Luda now regularly “administers” and talks to onions (you heard me) attempting to regain exorcism in lost tears. Both people and objects emerge with symbol status.
The Muscalinos have three daughters. Tina, the eldest (Lilli Kay), denied education, works in a tile factory to help support the family. She’s lumpen, friendless and can’t read. Middle child Vita (Elise Kibler), is smart and outspoken. When we meet, she’s been exiled to a convent for defending 16 year-old Francesca (Jordyn DiNatale) against their violent father. Cesca’s crime? To chop her hair short. (Had Nic been aware his youngest is gay, he’d’ve probably killed her.) Vita endured a broken nose, several broken ribs, and a concussion. She will never forgive Nic. He, in turn, doesn’t allow her name to be mentioned in table grace.
Jordyn DiNatale, Alyssa Bresnahan, Juliet Brett
Luda’s steadfast love, despite objections to her husband’s behavior, is based on his “knowing who I was before I did.” She was 16 and naïve when they wed. The girls find her loyalty unfathomable. “You’re not a stupid woman,” Vita declares when allowed home for Christmas.
Dreams fill the hardscrabble apartment. Luda just wants peace. Vita intends to move out as soon as possible. Cesca has formulated plans to stow away to France with her inamorata, Albert’s daughter Connie (Juliet Brett). Tina, desperate for connection, accidentally makes a friend of saavy, fellow employee Celia (Shirine Babb) bonding under tragic circumstances.
The tragic circumstances, a shocking, beautifully manifest historical disaster, put everything into topspin. Was the event punishment from God? A parentheses of change engenders hope then dashed. Decisions are provoked.
Jordyn DiNatale and Michael Rispoli
This is a fairly well written kitchen sink drama, but misses the mark. Though characters manage to offer occasional humor, moments of specificity, and lots of familial devotion, everything is so formalized, we don’t care enough. The scope of the catastrophe is also hard to balance against outcome.
The company is fine, though an array of accents in attempt to show generational changes throws one. (Dialect Coach Stephen Gabis)
Of particular note are Jordyn DiNatale (Cesca) who reminds me of naturalistic Julie Harris in A Member of the Wedding, Shirine Babb who underplays Celia with skill and credibility, and Alyssa Bresnahan as the passionate, tightly wound Ludovica. The latter’s prayer scene in Act II is a gem.
Director Gordon Edelstein gives each daughter distinguishing expression and physicality. Well paced scenes move smoothly from one area of the permanent set to another. Two-handers are particularly well realized. The young lesbians, ostensibly too young for sexual encounter, display physical affection in a marvelously imaginative, almost balletic interlude. Fights Directed by Rick Sordelet and Christian Kelly-Sordelet are terrifically real.
Eugene Lee’s Set Design is minimal, evocative. Overhead indicators – signs for the tile factory, the butcher shop, Christ on the Cross, a stained glass window – work well without interfering. At one point Christmas lights vividly extend into the theater. (Note: when lights and garlands come down, the holiday tree oddly remains. A mistake?)
Fitz Patton’s excellent Sound Design provides both the subtle and alarming with equal skill. His music choices are perfect.
Photos by Joan Marcus Opening: Elise Kibler, Lilli Kay, Jordyn DiNatale
Roundabout Theatre Company presents Napoli, Brooklyn by Meghan Kennedy
Directed by Gordon Edelstein
Through September 3, 2017
Laura Pels Theatre
111 W 46th Street
49: 8- the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough–
Fifty year-old Victor Franz (Mark Ruffalo) is a cop. Entering what used to be his home, dispensing with jacket and firearm, he removes sheets from fine old furniture, picks up paraphernalia- a long oar, a fencing sword, tries the old radio and wind-up phonograph- on which we hear a 1920s laugh track. Above him, Derek McLane’s wonderful set suspends heavy, period furniture as if it were decorative molding on steroids.
Slowly, Victor circumnavigates the crowded, dusty room reacting to memories. One can almost see him think. The place has sat empty since the death of his father, a man whom he cared for and supported, sacrificing personal aspirations. Were it not for the building being torn down, all we see might remain in perpetual stasis.
The amount of time given to perusal is generous, effective, and rather brave. We feel the weight of history and Victor’s attachment. There’s isn’t a cough or rustle in the theater.
Jessica Hecht, Mark Ruffalo
Victor’s wife Esther (Jessica Hecht) joins him. She finds the apartment depressing, but feels it necessary to goose her husband both into getting the absolute best price from a furniture dealer on the way, and keeping the money, rather than splitting it with his estranged brother, Walter (Tony Shaloub), a well heeled doctor. This is a housewife suffering from empty nest syndrome, one who didn’t bargain for as small and mediocre life as she feels she’s enduring. “Everything was always temporary with us. You should’ve gotten out during the war.” Victor had planned to be a scientist.
In what seems the to-date highlight of his career, Danny DeVito veritably inhabits Solomon, the 90 year-old, semi-retired furniture dealer whose name Victor got from the phone book. Esther is suspicious. “I’m registered, I’m licensed, I’m even vaccinated,” he retorts with good humor as the men bid her goodbye.
Solomon is a gregarious salesman. Everything elicits a story, an explanation, a defense, an excuse. He talks about relative value, unpopular eras, oversized scale of gracious pieces, their aura of permanence. “A man gets married, sits at this table; he knows he’s gotta stay married.” Victor has trouble pinning the agent down to an offer. The arrangement is all or nothing. Itemization implies otherwise. Still, he has a soft spot for the old man and can’t help but being amused by knowledgeable spin, not to mention tidbits about Solomon’s own colorful life.
Mark Ruffalo, Danny DiVito
At one point, the dealer takes a hard boiled egg out of his briefcase and eats it. It’s sheer vaudeville. He answers Victor slightly spitting egg, chokes a bit, and swigs from a silver flask, never breaking stride. Ruffalo looks at DiVito with deep appreciation. It brings to mind The Carol Burnett Show, whose production team actually allowed the company to crack each other up on camera. Here, things are kept in appropriate check, though laughter feels imminent. Both actors are marvelous.
Just as cash is changing hands, Walter unexpectedly arrives suspending the sale. Victor practically backs away. He can’t let go of the difficult, deeply resented past in which Walter seems to have shaped his brother’s future. Facts and motivation conflict. Denial spurts like errant geysers, precursor to eruption.
The Price is heady and dense. Playwright Arthur Miller explores the complex, fallible nature of his beautifully drawn characters (humanity) and long term consequences of decisions that seemed axiomatic when made. Though not without humor, the drama seriously addresses one’s relationship with one’s self, others subject to fallout. A context that might easily evoke judgment abstains.
Danny DiVito, Mark Ruffalo, Tony Shaloub
The whiz bang company unfailingly balance one another. Tony Shaloub (Walter) is so forceful and charismatic when quick-changing tacks, uncertainty about his intentions never abates. Jessica Hecht’s portrayal of Esther makes the backbone of her marriage believable even after play-long discontent, prodding, and even threats.
Mark Ruffalo’s naturalistic performance is immensely nuanced. Small gestures and expressions speak volumes. The actor fully occupies his character even in silence. We’re made to feel Victor’s wrenching internal battle which encompasses not only the pivotal earlier decision, but taking a stand that must powerfully affect life going forward. That which Ruffalo holds in is as palpably potent as his outbursts.
Danny DiVito’s Solomon captivates. Walking a fine line between amusing attributes and credibility, DiVito never grows too broad. Miller gives us a familiar type, but the actor brings him to quirky and specific life. Comic timing is impeccable.
Director Terry Kinney does a masterful job in regulating the ebb and flow of emotion. Everyone has his/her own reaction timing. Small business and use of the staging area seem character instinctive. Kinney’s opening is inspired. Periodic use of room elements – visualize Danny DiVito stuck holding an oar five times his height – is wry, yet never inappropriate.
Derek McLane’s excellent set pairs adjacent water towers and an expanse of backdrop sky with the terrifically appointed room.
This is an extremely satisfying production of a superb play.
Photos by Joan Marcus Opening: Mark Ruffalo, Tony Shaloub
Roundabout Theatre Company presents Arthur Miller’s The Price
Directed by Terry Kinney
American Airlines Theater
227 West 42nd Street
If you’ve been hiding under a rock, the beloved 1942 Christmas film Holiday Inn starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire as successful song and dance men both in love with Lila, the girl in their act. Preferring a simpler life, Bing/Jim has purchased an Inn where he plans to live with Lila who’s accepted his marriage proposal. At the last minute she decides she’s in love with Fred/Ted and her career. Jim leaves for Midvale, Connecticut alone.
He refurbishes the picturesque place, but unable to support it decides to offer dinner theater as frequently as he needs to keep it going – on holidays. Thus, Holiday Inn. In a mix-up of identities, aspiring performer Linda shows up in Connecticut looking for a job. Here’s where “White Christmas” first comes in as a newly penned song Jim sings to the pretty stranger. By New Year’s Eve, the show’s up and they’re smitten.
Megan Sikora and Corbin Bleu
Meanwhile Lila leaves Ted for a millionaire. Bereft without a partner the moment Hollywood calls, he turns up wildly drunk at the inn on December 31, grabs Linda and dances up a storm. She rescues his inebriated infirmity and makes them look good (unfortunately not well executed here.) The crowd thinks they’re a new team He passes out.
In the morning, Ted remembers her feel in his arms and the look of her legs but can’t otherwise recognize the girl. Offering his celebrity to bring in an audience, he plays several holidays in search of the unknown woman determined to make her his new partner. (A missed comic opportunity is not including the scene where Ted weaves among couples checking out women’s legs much to everyone’s puzzled offense.) Jim can see familiar writing on the wall and takes steps to prevent their meeting…which comically fail. Miscommunication causes a rift but all comes out swell in the end.
Lora Lee Gaynor and Bryce Pinkham
Of the wry, sophisticated, entertaining story, we retain nothing wry or sophisticated. (This includes orchestrations by Larry Blank which sound like summer stock.) Jim Hardy (Bryce Pinkham), Ted Hanover (Corbin Bleu), and Lila Dixon (Megan Sikora) are playing Flatbush when we meet them. So much for the decision to walk away from a highly successful career. She accepts his ring postponing marriage a mere 6 weeks, (uh huh), later showing up at “the farm” to break it off adding another song.
Linda Mason (Lora Lee Gaynor) is a schoolteacher (a former actress of course, though conveniently with zero ambition) whose family used to own the house/inn. Mamie and her children (who were black), Jim’s sole kitchen help and company, have disappeared, undoubtedly for political reasons. Instead we have “fix-it man” Louise (Megan Lawrence dressed like Rosie the Riveter) who takes steps to help her, here, completely hapless boss and plays matchmaker. (Jim has been reconceived as so awkward he seems obtuse.) Also added is a child (Morgan Gao) who works for the local bank?! delivering bills and mortgage notices with admonition. Virtually all his appearances feel out of place.
Corbin Bleu, Lora Lee Gaynor, Bryce Pinkham
Holiday Inn is always televised at the end of the year as its centerpiece is Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.” Likely in order to prolong touring possibilities, whereas almost all the numbers in the ebullient original took place at the Inn, here we spend time watching glitzy Ted and Lila perform elsewhere. Several production numbers involve a company of theater kids who appear out of nowhere at just the right moment in the Garland/Rooney Let’s Put On a Show mode. We’ve jettisoned intimacy and diminished the love story.
There are 21 songs squished into this facsimile, most brief, many – some obviously – not from the original. It’s like sitting at a restaurant table elbow to elbow with other diners. Few are comfortable. The book is sketchy and often blatantly derivative inserting an occasional wink, wink line from another film. It serves merely to carry us from song to song.
Bryce Pinkham. Megan Lawrence, and The Company
Having said this, I’m trying to imagine how I’d feel about the show if I was unfamiliar with the film. I think I’d find it overstuffed, fragmentary, and homogenized, though parenthetically entertaining. The company is bright, enthusiastic, and good hoofers, especially Mr. Bleu. Overall, voices are excellent. It’s a pleasure to see Bryce Pinkham on stage again, though one wishes him a better vehicle next time. And I look forward to further roles by new-to-me Megan Lawrence who has spirit and brass.
As one of the book writers, Director Gordon Greenberg carried through his vision with continuity. Choreography by Denis Jones is fun. A scene using holiday garlands as jump ropes works splendidly. Anna Louizos’ Set Design is well conceived but looks as if corners were cut in execution.
Costume Designer Alejo Vietti does a yeoman-like job, but excels at millinery. Not only does Bing Crosby’s hat show up later on (no sign of the pipe), but fanciful Easter bonnets are unquestionably the show’s visual highlight.
Also featuring Lee Wilkof as the act’s agent Danny, who doesn’t make enough of his ba-dump-dump lines.
Photos by Joan Marcus Opening: Corbin Bleu, Lora Lee Gaynor, Bryce Pinkham
Roundabout Theatre Company presents The New Irving Berlin Musical Holiday Inn Music & Lyrics by Irving Berlin Book by Gordon Greenberg & Chad Hodge Directed by Gordon Greenberg Choreography by Denis Jones Studio 54 254 West 54th Street Through January 1. 2017
Attesting to its timeless appeal, the 1936 Hungarian play Parfumerie by Miklós László had been made into two Hollywood films – The Shop Around the Corner and The Good Old Summertime – before this 1963 musical saw the light. Nor did that end reinterpretation, as the next generation grinned through You’ve Got Mail.
The Joe Masterhoff/Jerry Bock/Sheldon Harnick version is a hand-painted valentine, a shaken snow globe, a waltz. As written, the piece has universal appeal. Its book is sympathetic and unfussy, music and lyrics original and adroit. Once again numbers like “Sounds While Selling” in which we hear pieces of conversation from three customers with three salespeople:
1st WOMAN: I would like to see a…/KODALY:…face like yours…/2nd WOMAN: …cracked…/SIPOS:…but we carry…/1st WOMAN:Do you have a cream for…/2nd WOMAN:…very red…and “Vanilla Ice Cream,” which swings back and forth from the heroine’s astonishment at suddenly finding her nemesis captivating and writing to her lonely hearts “pen pal,” make me marvel the authors’ accomplishment. Not to mention resonant ballads and clever comedic numbers.
Zachary Levi and Michael McGrath
The show has warmth, humor, love, distinctive characters, misunderstanding, adultery, Christmas, and a happy ending, several really. What more could one want? It’s sentimental but not saccharine. I’m a longtime fan.
Here, as in the original, our story unfolds at Maraczek’s Parfumerie in Budapest, Hungary. Set Designer David Rockwell imagines the establishment as a charming, deftly detailed dolls’ house. The set morphs beautiflly. Mr. Maraczek (Byron Jennings) runs a cheerfully tight ship. The shop is managed by 30-something everyman Georg Nowack (Zachary Levi) and staffed by timid, Ladislav Sipos (Michael McGrath), womanizer Steven Kodaly (Gavin Creel), single-too-long Ilona Ritter (Jane Krakowski), and delivery boy Arpad Laslo (Nicholas Barasch). Kodaly and Ritter are having a clandestine affair about which everyone is aware.
Into this happy family comes Amalia Balash (Laura Benanti) desperate for a job. Though refused a position, the young woman whips off her hat and sells an item about which the proprietor is enthusiastic, but which Nowack considers a mistake. She’s hired. Balash and Nowack are now at loggerheads, a self perpetuating situation.
Having seen at least one of this story’s iterations, you must know that the eventual couple are unknowingly writing one another letters through a lonely hearts club. Both are completely smitten. An eventual attempt to meet evokes an usually touching and comic scenario during which he finds out the identity of his inamorata. Now what? Meanwhile, Kodaly’s latest betrayal of Ilona upsets the apple cart at work in ways no one anticipated.
Gavin Creek and Jane Krakowski
In order for any production to be successful, the show’s protagonists must seem unconscious of what the audience knows. Actors must play “straight,” innocent, or as my companion this evening succinctly suggested, they must “discover” in front of us. This, unfortunately, largely fails to happen.
Scott Ellis’s Direction broadcasts every emotion. Comedy arrives in a succession akin to – I’m about to be funny, look I’m being funny, wait – did you get that? There are broad ba-dump-dump looks and gestures appropriate to vaudeville. Moments of revelation ignore adjustment, confusion, and surprise in favor of being slick. Anger is glossed over. No one thinks or feels, they just move on.
Laura Benanti and Zachary Levi
Michael McGrath (Sipos) does a nice, subdued, early Nathan Lane-ish job, managing to be gentle and credible. Gavin Creel (Kodaly), the single actor for whom exaggeration is appropriate, is at the same time flamboyant and precise, never going for the yuks.
Jane Krakowski’s Ilona is all sex all the time. A theatrical fanny has not had so much work out since Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot. This is supposed to be a girl possessed, neither naively kittenish, nor a vixen. When her turnabout occurs, we don’t buy it. Krakowski is a fine singer and usually a much better comedienne.
Zachary Levi (Nowack) seems to have had a revelation between Acts I and II. In Act I, he’s self-conscious and preening. In Act II, the actor suddenly becomes boyish and believable. “She Loves Me” is infectiously exuberant.
The biggest disappointment is Laura Benanti. At no time is the role of Amalia Balash plumbed for anything but surface expression. Benanti has an extraordinary voice which here, alas, is too often both loudly unfitting to a moment and unbecoming.
Re Warren Carlyle’s Choreography: Though Kodaly’s magnetism is amusingly showcased during a dance duet that features Krakowski’s skillful split (cue applause), that same move has no more business in “I Resolve”- her swearing off that kind of relationship – than do leg extensions through a highly slit skirt she later, aptly rebuttons. The once wry scenario at Cafe Imperiale (bravo Headwaiter Peter Bartlett), is now something out of a Marx Brothers script.
Tonight’s audience admittedly seems unaware of these issues. If you’ve never seen this delicious piece, perhaps you will be as well.
Photos by Joan Marcus Opening: Laura Benanti and Zachary Levi
Roundabout Theatre Company presents She Loves Me Book-Joe Masterhoff; Music-Jerry Bock; Lyrics- Sheldon Harnick Directed by Scott Ellis Studio 54 254 West 54th Street Through June 12, 2016