Thursday, April 25, 2013


Well, it's all right to go back to LA. 
      Last night I went to the theatre and saw what was rumored and spoken aloud of in alleyways(mostly the Shubert one)as the great show of the season, PIPPIN.  As my friends know, I came back to this unrelentingly gray(as it was for an elongated winter) metropolis because I have lingering (and occasionally passionate) hopes of getting my musical, SYLVIA WHO? on.  Because Pippin was purported to be so wonderful, I thought there might be no selfless exigency in mounting my (it really is) adorable tale, as there would be something already on the disappointing boards that justified the exorbitant price of tickets, to draw in young audiences besides the revival of ANNIE, BOOK OF MORMON, and the dark (and I hear, off-putting) MATILDA.
     And as the curtain rose, or rather, the lights signaled wonder,there burst open upon the stage the most splendiferous of acrobatics, trapeze artistry, and eye-dazzling display of human pyrotechnics that I have seen this side of a circus, where it would be expected, though not to such a beautifully designed effect.  Then the show began, with its tale of Charlemagne and his son, Pippin, the glamorous second wife who hatched shadowy thoughts of her own son taking over, etc. etc.  And as events, or the curious lack of them, unfolded, my hopes rose and fell with the dangling artists, until, more than midway through Act I, an extraordinary performer, Andrew Martin, as Pippin's Grandma, part yenta(or Yentl) stopped the show dead, or more accurately, live in its tracks, bringing the audience into the palms of her very lively hands, and
more importantly, to its feet.  Then, even more remarkably, she stripped away her middle-aged schmata and revealed an impressive body in sequined splendor and started swinging like a regular trapeze artist.  Even my cynical escort who was quick to explain this wasn't "his kind of show," was impressed.
    So I was happy for the spirit of Bob Fosse, whose production originally this was, and who, I imagined, would be hovering in the wings, since he probably now had them.   I had encountered that great gentleman once in the flesh at Baskin-Robbins next to Dusty's beauty parlor in Beverly Hills, and without even thinking, fell to my knees, causing him to wave his hands and shyly say, "Oh, please."  But we had a fine conversation, and some correspondence that followed, and I always revered him.  So I was glad this Pippin was working.
    And then came Act Two.  I have to assume that if there is an Afterlife, which I hope there is for artists, so they can ameliorate what they have failed to make wondrous in Earth time, Fosse would have certainly worked on structure, since he had clearly already perfected movement.  So he would have had to cut this act to shreds, since it did not slow the action, it obliterated it. Unnecessary farm scenes with pig-clad players at the trough and field hands, etc. working the farm, while Pippin's love(?) affair with a young widow unfolded, sort of, under a quilt, were uninteresting to the point of being deadly.  Lost was the plot of the step-Queen, lobbying in the shadows for her son, momentarily redeemed somewhat by her gifted dancing-- not surprising as she is the daughter of Jacques D'Amboise and so of course can kick high.  But Pippin's love interest, though sweet, was not electric enough to justify her time onstage, much less the loss of the plot.  And not electric at all, though also sweet, was Matthew James Thomas as Pippin. Three names do not a transcending talent make.
     Most of all I sorrowed for the dog, a little black puppy Pippin gives the widow's son to compensate for the death of his duck.  As he bounded onto the stage, jumping, but not high enough, he missed the drum he was supposed to land on, and had to make a second try.  AND WITH EVERYONE WATCHING!  I could feel his mortification, so even though Pippin gave him his treat anyway, what humiliation there had to be in his heart as he went back to his trainer and what he has of friends, who, even if they hadn't seen, would have to know. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


      Today is Shakespeare's birthday, and in his honor, and in his defense, I am resuming this Blog.
I have been very remiss about blogging for Broadway, as most of the dreams of my youth that made Broadway the biggest dream have been decimated by less than wonderful plays, if plays they are really at all (I was a Shakespeare major.)  So I must begin my apologia with MACBETH, the show-off version, being a one-man display of all Shakespeare's angry brilliance squeezed into one usually super-talented man, to the detriment of both the playwright and the performer.
    When you major in Shakespeare, at what was and I hope always will be one of the great women's colleges, Bryn Mawr, and have a teacher who himself was a student of Kittredge, supposedly the scholar/teacher/editor who made it all accessible, there are some things you hold dear: like poetry, plot and character.  To have the Three Witches wonder when Will We Three Come Again? in the voice of the lunatic performer(the part, not a judgment of the man) in a madhouse, initially casts a spell, though I would warrant not the one the playwright intended.
   I have long been a fan of Alan Cumming, whose versatility extends from Cabaret to the Good Wife, arguably the best show on television, to the recent surprise of seeing him on a re-broadcast of Romy and Michelle go to a High School Reunion or something like that, in which he played Sandy, the rich graduate who comes back in a helicopter and dances with both funny airheaded stars.  The stunning question, for me at least, was how Hollywood had found him at such a young time, since most of the Brits or even Scots have their basic training and additional plumage brushed in theatre on that edge of the sea. He was likely in his early or middle twenties in that movie, so it was an impressive puzzle.
    But to have all of that great play compressed into one man's rendition and depiction was not only unsettling, but unsatisfying.  Especially as his least impressive depiction was that of Lady MacBeth, whom all of us who were hoping that a woman's place was in the theater, held as perhaps the best chance an actress had to show her dark side.  If there is a dark side to Alan Cumming it is only that he bit off more than the most talented of actors can chew, much less spit out.
   I suppose my disappointment is exacerbated by a plethora of unnecessarily naked bodies in this season's parade of less-than spectacles, and that Alan Cumming's was among them, taking a bath that one would be correct in describing as gratuitous, although that word may be too polite.  I had the pleasure of attending a private tribute to the great stage designs of Tony Walton, and could not help thinking how much it would add to the ever-escalating price of sets, to have to have a portion of the stage that one could actually sink into and emerge from covering what are ever-increasingly less-than-private parts.
     To my actual horror, as not only a student of theater but a lover of many hopes and dreams and visions of a spiritual nature, Jesus Christ's mother showed up as turbeulently depicted by Fiona Shaw, in a one woman show called The Testament of Mary, and she, too, took a bath.  Before the opening curtain which there wasn't one of really, she more or less held out her interesting but very tight mouth as though to kiss the vulture she was holding bravely, which, by the way, disappeared and was never a part of the actual overwrought proceedings.  We have all heard of a different kind of bird tease, but never, to my knowledge, a vulture tease.
      On the way to the theater I had overheard someone say "I would go to anything Fiona Shaw was in," and wondered as the evening unfolded along with her clothes if that would include a bathtub. Where are we headed, if anywhere?  I shudder to think what might happen to the statue of Shakespeare that stands so royally in Central Park.  Its legs are really good.  I hope no one tries to investigate what might be the rest of him.