Theater diaries: Prince of Broadway, Government Inspector, and more
|Government Inspector, photo @Carol Rossegg|
Of all the shows by far the biggest highlight was Government Inspector. It's playing in the off-Broadway New World Stages theater. GO SEE IT BEFORE IT CLOSES ON AUGUST 20. Jeffrey Hatcher's adaptation of Nikolai Gogol's famous play had a synergy of great casting, direction, and production values. The whole evening had the audience in stitches. Gogol's satirical play has lost none of its bite and relevance -- the snobbery, ignorance, selfishness, and corruption of the public officials in the play could be transplanted to modern times without any adjustments.
|Urie and Burton, photo @Carol Rossegg|
Steven DeRosa as the corrupt, pompous mayor of a tiny Russian village matched Urie scene for scene, laugh for laugh. His officiousness and cowardice are covered up by a bland good-guy persona. Mary Testa as the mayor's horny wife and Arnie Burton were the other standouts. Burton doubled both as the nosy postmaster who reads every letter that comes through the mail and Ivan's cynical servant. When he caught Ivan trying to kill himself again his response was a nonchalant "We do this everyday."
Alexis Distler's clever two-tiered set perfectly captured the cheesy bourgeoisie tastes of the Mayor as well as the seedy ramshackle inn. Tilly Grimes' costumes also capture the feel of people who don't have much money but spend their lives pretending to have more money than they actually have. Director Jesse Berger's directions ensures that the laughs are almost constant, even if those laughs are often icky and uncomfortable.
|Play That Goes Wrong cast, photo @ Jeremy Daniel|
|Yazbeck in "The Right Girl"|
|View from the banquet. The set is by far the greatest I've ever seen|
The Great Comet I saw on August 13, the last day for both Oak and Ingrid Michaelson (Sonya). It was a very cool experience because this time I sat onstage in the right banquet, and the performers were sometimes inches away from me. Many of the characters enter through the back staircase right where I was sitting. I caught a pierogie, they gave us shakers, and I almost got a torn page of War and Peace. And the show remains a creative, wild, uneven, theatrical experience. It also has one of the best opening numbers ever -- a total earworm. I still have "Anatole is hot/Marya is Old-School/Sonya is Good/Natasha is young/And Andrey isn't here" stuck in my head. Props go out to this amazing cast and ensemble. Of the original cast, I thought Denée Benton (Natasha) sounded weaker than she did in February, Amber Gray is still funny as the "slut" Helene and she also has one of the strongest alto voices in the business (she knocked "Charming" out of the park), Nick Choski (Dolokhov) is still a twinkly eyed trouble-maker, Lucas Steele (Anatole) was still the force of nature -- a singing, dancing punk rock dynamo that rightfully steals every scene he's in. In the huge second act production number "Balaga" I was fortunate to sit close to Lucas Steele and the effort and energy he put into that one number was astonishing. He was heaving and sweating bullets towards the end. As for the new cast members, Ingrid Michaelson was actually a disappointment. I love her music, but her slender pop voice sounded overwhelmed and she didn't bring much emotion to "Sonya Alone.". And how was Oak? He was pretty great. His voice isn't as mellifluous as Josh Groban's but he was dramatically convincing as homely, alcoholic Pierre and the final number ("The Great Comet of 1812") was gorgeous. There was another new member: Courtney Bassett (Princess Mary) I actually liked more than Gelsey Bell. It's a crying shame this beautiful inventive show is closing September 3. Go see it before Labor Day!
|The two Phils: Bill Murray and Andy Karl. Murray saw the show twice|
UPDATE: I went to see Great Comet again on 8/22 and saw my third Pierre, Scott Stangland. I was seated front row mezzanine -- probably the best seats in the house. Scott's voice is a gruff but powerful baritenor and he was very believable and moving as Pierre. The ending is quietly beautiful: the "comet" of 1812 is represented by a large chandelier that gradually fades until there's only one night and finally the stage darkens completely. Denée Benton was in great voice last night, and from the front row mezzanine you really see more of her facial expressions. It was nice to see Gelsey Bell (Mary/Opera Singer) and Brittain Ashford (Sonya) return to their roles.
MORE UPDATES :I went AGAIN on 8/29 for the fourth time to see the show's creator/composer Dave Malloy as Pierre. As far as voice goes his voice is not as mellifluous as Scott Stangland or Josh Groban. But there's something special about seeing a composer interpret his own music, and so it was last night. At one point I saw Dave in "Pierre's tavern" absolutely immersed playing the piano. The audience was so enthusiastic. Maybe too much so -- they started applauding before the final light goes out in the "great comet" finale, and thus I couldn't hear the beautiful, quiet ending to this amazing score. I am so sad to see this beautiful show go.
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