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 Lion Theatre

Wonderful Town – A Winner


For its 90th revival, Musicals Tonight! chose 1953’s Wonderful Town, originally starring Edie Adams and Rosalind Russell. The Tony Award winning show was based on its librettists (Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov) 1940 play, My Sister Eileen, which, in turn, derived from Ruth McKenney’s New Yorker stories and book.


Savannah Frazier as Eileen

This lively production features the talents of Director Evan Pappas, whose keen eye for character turns and aesthetic arrangements even when his cast just poses, serve to entertain and enhance, and Choreographer Antoinette DiPietropolo, whose work is buoyant. It also features an unusual cavalcade of good actors having fun with smaller roles.

Pretty, innocent, man-magnet Eileen (Savannah Frazier) and her smart, cynical, older sister Ruth (Elizabeth Broadhurst) have come to New York City from small town Ohio in search of fame and fortune, or at least lives where everyone doesn’t know everyone else’s business. Eileen dreams of becoming an actress, Ruth of earning her way as writer.

with wreck

Savannah Frazier as Eileen, Elizabeth Broadhurst as Ruth, Javid J. Weins as Wreck, Jillian Gottlieb as Helen

The girls make a beeline for Greenwich Village where everyone knows artists live cheaply. Exhausted, they’re ambushed by a landlord named Appopolous (Perry Lambert, with deft accent and comic timing) who knows rubes when he sees them. He talks them into a tiny basement apartment with a window on the street. Within minutes, an explosion rocks the room- subway construction is going on beneath, but only, they’re assured, from 6am to midnight. (Sound effects are terrific.) Why, oh why, oh why, oh –why did I ever leave Ohio?…they sing.

When a stranger strolls in assuming the apartment is still inhabited by a prostitute, their neighbor, “Wreck” aka Ed Loomis (David J. Wiens) comes to the rescue. An ex-college football hero, the young man is sweet and simple. His girl, Helen (Jillian Gottlieb) timidly hides their relationship from her judgmental mother, Mrs. Wade (Leslie Alexander), at one point going so far as to board Wreck in the girls’ kitchen overnight.

Wonderful casting pairs the substantial Weins and tiny Gottlieb to best advantage. Moving her aside by absently lifting and repositioning her is directorial candy. Weins handles “Pass the Football” with dumb, wistful skill. Gottlieb manifests a perfect mouse-voice and kind of apt, fluttery presence.


James Donegan as Bob; Paul Binotto as Speedy and Perry Lambert as Appopolous

While Eileen strikes out at multiple auditions, she attracts both wholesome Walgreen’s manager, Frank (Ian Lowe) who gives her free lunches and heat-seeking, sleazeball newspaper reporter Chick (Leland Burnett), who promises to tell his editor about Ruth. Both are inadvertently invited to dinner the same night. Lowe is credibly low key and likeable in a role that might otherwise disappear. Burnett is oily from dialogue to body language, adding interest to his character.

Meanwhile, Ruth is summarily rejected until she encounters Bob (James Donegan), an editor on The Mad Hatter magazine (aka The New Yorker) who, recognizing his younger self, reads her dreadful stories. (Enactment of these is alas, a weaker segment.) Bob comes looking for the discouraged Ruth and is also invited to potluck by Eileen. In the well paced “Conversation Piece,” table chat is stilted, ulterior motives clash.

James Donegan is not only an attractive actor with a warm, appealing voice, but sympathetic in a role which is sometimes a placeholder. His reading of Ruth’s stories aloud has just the right restrained, but incredulous tone. I’d be interested in seeing this thespian in a straight play.


James Donegan as Bob, Savannah Frazier as Eileen, Leland Burnett as Chick, Elizabeth Broadhurst as Ruth, Ian Lowe as Frank

Ruth inadvertently gets herself involved with a bunch of South American sailors who love the “Conga.” (Choreography is fun, though opportunity was missed in not snaking down the otherwise well employed theater aisle.) When Eileen tries to help, she gets arrested and ends up captivating the police department who serenade her with “My Darlin’ Eileen.” Joshua Downs portrays the station captain with genial charm, Irish lilt, and a pleasing vocal.

Eileen also lands on the front page of a newspaper which secures her employment as an entertainer by Club Vortex owner, Speedy Valente (Paul Binotto, an amusing, come-to-life cartoon.) “Ballet at The Village Vortex” offers infectious choreography. Needless to say, everyone is paired up and employed by the end.


Savannah Frazier as Eileen, Elizabeth Broadhurst as Ruth

It’s the journey that counts. Take it. The musical itself is a romp and there are so many unexpectedly nifty moments, I found myself smiling almost throughout the whole piece.

I imagine Eileen a bit more naïve than depicted, but Savannah Frazier has a simply lovely voice and settling in, enchants more than just the men on stage. Asking the police to fetch and carry for her, Frazier morphs into the girl who blithely takes this for granted.

Elizabeth Broadhurst (Ruth) does a yeoman-like job, but never quite gets Ruth’s caustic fatalism. Helpless moments with the sailors are effective as are earnest speeches about her writing and concern for her sister.

Also featuring: Brekken Baker, Abby Hart, Allyson Tolbert, Piera Calabro

Photos by Michael Portantiere

Opening: Eric Shorey (also an engaging tour guide at the show’s top),  Neville Braithwaite, Ryan Rhue, Dallas Padoven, Elizabeth Broadhurst as Ruth, Isaac Matthews


Musicals Tonight! presents
Wonderful Town
Libretto- Joseph Fields/Jerome Chodorov
Music-Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics- Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Directed by Evan Pappas
Choreographed by Antoinette DiPietropolo
Music Director/Vocal Arranger-James Stenborg
The Lion Theatre
410 West 42 Street
Through April 17, 2016
Come back in October for next season’s first production          Funny Face by George and Ira Gershwin

Broadway and The Bard – Len Cariou’s Double Life


If music be the food of love, play on…Enough! No more. ‘Tis not so sweet now as it was before…” begins Len Cariou, speaking above the appealing strains of Mark Janas’s piano accompaniment. (Twelfth Night) Beat. The actor turns from interior oration to his audience:

Love I Hear,” makes you sigh a lot,/Also, love, I hear, makes you weak…he sings. (Stephen Sondheim- A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum). This, in a nutshell is the clever concept for Broadway & The Bard, a succession of Shakespearean soliloquies and well chosen Broadway show songs furthering spoken sentiments.

Cariou, a Canadian, honed Shakespeare chops at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. He made his New York dramatic debut in 1969 as Henry V. Six months later, the actor’s New York musical theater debut followed with Applause (Lee Adams/ Charles Strouse.) The performer later originated memorable Broadway leads in A Little Night Music and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Stephen Sondheim.) In fact, his most eminent years were spent moving back and forth between these two very different art forms.

mark & len

A highpoint of this evening is simply listening to Cariou put each of the Bard’s contributions in context. He’s a natural and enthusiastic storyteller.

“Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’” Cariou exclaims as Henry V. What is it that we’re living for?/Applause, Applause./Nothing I know/brings on the glow/like sweet applause…he sings with a twinkle in his eye. Oddly, and this crops up in several numbers, every few lines sound as if they come from a rendition with different intention. Also, while a wink is apt, mugging is unnecessary. The lyric makes its point.

“How can you say to me I am a king?” he demands as Richard II. “If I Ruled the World ev’ry day would be the first day of spring/Every heart would have a new song to sing…(Leslie Bricusse/Cyril Ornadel- Pickwick). The song arrives low key and sincere. Unfortunately, and here again, there’s a pattern, engaging performance is marred by a denouement of volume wherein Cariou pushes his vocal to places it won’t comfortably go.

The “I will not love!” speech from Love’s Labour’s Lost is tenderly illuminated by “Her Face” (Michael Stewart/Bob Merrill- Carnival) while its coda, “Down With Love” (E.Y Harburg/Harold Arlen-Hooray For What?) is too fast, straining delivery. Petruchio’s pronouncements from The Taming of the Shrew are enhanced by “How To Handle a Woman” (Lerner & Loewe-Camelot), but playing both an old man and the questioner, looking up and down, takes away from nuanced reflection.

There are well acted speeches like the savored “All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players…” (As You Like It) and those that appear all surface such as “…and what’s he then that says I play the villain” (Othello). “How Long Has This Been Going On?” (George & Ira Gershwin-Funny Face) is charming while one of the only poorly chosen numbers, a song from Stephen Sondheim’s The Frogs, would even be difficult for someone with wider range/younger lungs. The production seesaws.


Lately, I’ve seen a great many veteran performers on stage. Those who are successful adjust to altered capabilities presenting shows that spotlight current top form. Mr. Cariou might consider this.

Mark Janas’s Musical Direction also needs to take Cariou’s limitations into account. His Arrangements and Accompaniment, are, otherwise splendid. That which plays beneath soliloquies feels just right. Song attitudes suit each context. Playing is deft.

Barry Kleinbort’s excellent contribution to the shape of this piece is almost visible. As Director, he sets his player in positions around the minimally set stage with obvious forethought. If only a more consistent performance could be achieved.


Josh Iocavelli’s Set Design is pitch perfect. We see backstage coils of rope, unused lights, a bust of the bard and a shelf with hats, crowns, the framed image of a thespian, a skull, a chest plate…Just enough.

Photos by Carol Rosegg
Broadway and The Bard
Performed by Len Cariou
Conceived by Len Cariou, Barry Kleinbort, Mark Janus
Music Direction/Piano- Mark Janus
Directed by Barry Kleinbort
The Lion Theatre
410 West 42nd Street
Through March 6, 2016