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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Julie Madly Deeply (59E59 Theaters)


By Harry Forbes

“I am not Julie Andrews,” declares Sarah-Louise Young at the start of her two-act tribute to Julie Andrews, precluding any odious comparisons. In any event, the show -- written by Young “with contributions from” director Russell Lucas -- is not an impersonation, but rather a loving homage from a lifelong fan.

Young first saw Andrews in a concert at the O2 auditorium in 2010  when the beloved star of “Mary Poppins” and “The Sound of Music” was attempting a musical comeback after the botched throat operation that, for all intents and purposes, ended her singing career. The press reported that the fans were disappointed, and Young admits “She didn’t sound the same,” but her adoration remained undiminished.

Tracing Andrews 1935 birth in Surrey, the nurturing of her voice by stepfather Ted Andrews to her early Broadway triumphs (“The Boy Friend,” “My Fair Lady,” and “Camelot”) to her Hollywood blockbusters, albeit with a public that would not accept her out of the nanny/governess roles, to the tragic loss of her voice, Young covers a lot of territory.

Along the way, Young sings most of the expected hits including “Do-Re-Mi,” “The Lonely Goatherd,” and “A Spoonful of Sugar.”

She also impersonates many of the people or prototypes in Julie’s life (i.e. a voice teacher, a Pathe news reader, a music hall performer). An adept mimic (Young’s Audtrey Hepburn for one is spot-on), she oddly chooses to affect some very peculiar accents for “My Fair Lady” director Moss Hart, and Rodgers and Hammerstein when a simple search on YouTube could easily give her the real thing. And there’s a little too much extraneous Liza Minnelli whose main connection with Andrews was replacing her for a short period in “Victor/Victoria.”

Accompanied very gracefully by Michael Roulston on the piano, most of the renditions are straight with an occasional off-beat arrangement such as “Feed the Birds.” She’s got an excellent voice which can encompass show tunes like “Le Jazz Hot” and the more soprano-like demands of “I Could Have Danced All Night.”

Along the way, Young ventures away from the obvious hits to such numbers “Say a Prayer for Me Tonight” (cut from “MFL”), “Could I Leave You?” from Andrews’ late return to the stage, “Putting It Together,” “I’ll Give You Three Guesses” from “Darling Lili,” and “The Physician” from “Star!”  As Young professes not to care much for “Camelot,” it is Roulston who is left to offer a very warmly vocalized “How to Handle a Woman.”

The script avoids the nitty gritty of Julie’s paternal parentage, as detailed in the lady's autobiography, but covers Andrews’ divorce from Tony Walton, her career challenges, the not-altogether-positive “change in direction” under the influence of second husband Blake Edwards, and the aforementioned loss of voice, the last symbolically mimed in an extended sequence to the strains of “The Rain in Spain.”

All in all, the script does cram a good deal of biographical incident in its breezy way, so Young clearly knows her idol.

Young is extremely personable, and her enthusiasm for her subject is infectious. She expresses what registers as genuine awe and excitement when audience members tell her what they’ve seen the lady in person. (Several mention “Victor/Victoria,” which particularly excites Young, though this was arguably the nadir of Andrews’ stage work.)

Outfitted in a simply frock for act one, she emerges in a rather eccentric multi-colored concoction in the second (costumes by Anna Braithwaite), which she finally sheds in modest homage to Andrews’ torrid striptease in “Darling Lili.”

Returning near the end to the night of the O2 concert, Young offers a gentle “Edelweiss,” wrapping up the evening on a poignant note before returning for a good natured audience singalong.

(59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street; 646-892-7999 or www.59e59.org; through June 30)

Photo by Carol Rosegg: Michael Roulston, Sarah-Louise Young in JULIE MADLY DEEPLY at Brits Off Broadway at 59E59 Theaters.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Much Ado About Nothing (Public Theater)


By Harry Forbes

The Public Theater always seems to do well with Shakespeare’s ever-popular 1598 comedy, and this latest -- an all-black production directed by the estimable Kenny Leon (his first show for the Public, and his first Shakespearean production in New York) -- is no exception.

Updated and reset from the Sicilian port of Messina to 2020 Atlanta, the production is nonetheless reassuringly traditional in most respects, though Leon has, of course, given it the overlay of the African-American experience, and the music is perforce a more up-to-date playlist than the Bard’s original.Thus we have such tunes as Marvin Gaye’s “What Going On,” “Precious Lord,” and “America the Beautiful,” sharing the stage with new tunes by Jason Michael Webb, and replacing the usual “Sigh No More” and others.

The play opens with the men coming back from an unspecified war but, as a program note explains, “this Delacorte production never depicts those the community is fighting against, emphasizing instead the values that the community is trying to defend.” Thus, the soldiers -- outfitted in burgundy uniforms (by designer Emilio Sosa) -- carry signs declaring such sentiments as “I Am a Person” and “Restore Democracy Now.”

In a program background interview, Leon explains he sees the community of the play “fighting for the values that Americans hold dear: the idea of democracy for everybody and respect for everybody, and all those values that people right now seem to be pushing against.”

The sparring Beatrice and Benedict are most delightfully taken by Danielle Brooks from “Orange is the New Black” and the revival of “The Color Purple,” and Grantham Coleman. Brooks’ sassy delivery works quite well with her character’s witty banter. Her speech after her famous injunction to “Kill, Claudio” -- “Oh, that I were a man for his sake” -- is passionately delivered, and earns an appreciative response from the audience. They and the other cast members deliver the text intelligently, albeit in the time-honored strictly American Public Theater style.

Though a far cry to such famous exemplars of the roles as Ellen Terry and Henry Irving in the19th century, and Peggy Ashcroft and John Gielgud in the last, The Public’s approach is valid, and the sparring couple’s “merry war” of words still satisfies. When I got home from the show, I listened to a bit of a 1963 recording of the play with Rachel Roberts, Rex Harrison, and a first-class English cast in the traditional style, and it sounded downright quaint by comparison.

Margaret Odette excels as the wronged Hero, with Jeremie Harris her too easily duped lover Claudio. (There’s a nice touch at the end when she slaps him before forgiving him for her earlier public shaming at their wedding when he was tricked into thinking her unfaithful.) Billy Eugene Jones plays Benedict and Claudio’s unlucky-in-love commander Don Pedro, with Hubert Point-Du-Jour as his villainous brother Don John. Versatile Chuck Cooper is expert as Hero’s father, as is Erik Laray Harvey as her doddering uncle Antonio. Olivia Washington and Tiffany Denise Hobbs are also strong as Margaret and Ursula, Hero’s ladies-in-waiting. And Tyrone Mitchell Henderson scores as the beleaguered Friar who steadfastly believes in Hero’s innocence.

The inept constable Dogberry -- as hopeless in wordplay as Beatrice and Benedick are adept -- is taken by a woman, Lateefah Holder, but the part is scarcely less tedious than usual. Jaime Lincoln Smith and Khiry Walker are the “false knaves” Borachio and Conrade apprehended by the foolish Dogberry and his/her Watch.

The scene where Beatrice and Benedick are tricked by their respective friends into hearing how they are loved by the other is delightfully done, with Brooks even eavesdropping from the audience as she makes her way down a row.

Beowulf Boritt’s attractive mansion set with its large “Stacey Abrams 2020” banners -- telegraphs the updated setting, and the whole is attractively lit by Peter Kaczorowski. Sosa’s costumes are modern but are as pleasing to the eye as period costumes.

Camille A. Brown (also “Choir Boy”)  has contributed the bracing choreography including disco dancing in a party scene and electric slide moves for the wedding sequence.

The most memorable “Much Ado” of my theater-going experience remains the 1982 Royal Shakespeare Company production with Derek Jacobi and Sinead Cusack, though The Public’s 1972 updating with Sam Waterston and Kathleen Widdoes, which transferred to Broadway and was later televised on network TV, was pretty special, too.

Leon’s production is a physically lovely, dramatically perceptive one, and the proof of its success was the uninhibited audience response during certain scenes, probably not unlike the boisterous audience response at the 16th century Globe.

(The Delacorte Theater in Central Park is accessible by entering at 81st Street and Central Park West or at 79th Street and Fifth Avenue; ticket distribution info at PublicTheater.org; through June 23)
               
Photo by Joan Marcus: Danielle Brooks and Grantham Coleman.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (Broadhurst Theatre)


By Harry Forbes

Seventeen years after Edie Falco and Stanley Tucci memorably starred on Broadway as the unlikely middle-aged lovers of Terrence McNally’s 1987 play, Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon assume the roles in this latest well-judged production by director Arin Arbus. Though by virtue of the passing years, it’s become a period piece, the central story of two lonely souls making a connection has not dated.

Johnny’s a 47-year-old short order cook, and Frankie a 40-year-old waitress at a local eatery. The play begins with them in the throes of passionate lovemaking; there's full nudity, but it's dimly lit and discreetly staged by (“Intimacy Director”) Claire Warden. Their passionate one-night stand promises to turn into more when Johnny declares they’re each other’s perfect soulmates, and it’s not long before he’s talking marriage.

Frankie is afraid of intimacy and implores -- in fact, orders -- him to leave, declaring she wants to “stop worrying that (she’s) trapped in (her) apartment with a fucking maniac,” but Johnny holds firm. Frankie soon succumbs again to his aggressively persuasive charms, but there’s still plenty of conflict ahead before dawn breaks.

Though clearly mismatched in so many ways, Johnny touchingly searches for commonality. And they do, in fact, share several past experiences. They were both raised in Allentown. Both have scars (literal and figurative) from past relationships. And so on.

At one point, Johnny calls the classical music radio station to learn the title of a piece that pleased Frankie, and later, the DJ -- skeptical that he’s really been called by a real-life “Frankie” and “Johnny” -- plays what Johnny requests: the most romantic music ever written. The chosen piece turns out to be Debussy’s “Clair de Lune.".

The locale is Hell’s Kitchen in 1983 New York (realistically lived-in apartment set by Riccardo Hern├índez), and it’s wise that the period has been retained as cultural and societal mores have so greatly changed. Johnny’s stubborn assertiveness would not fly in today’s #MeToo environment, but to Shannon’s credit, especially given the actor’s hulking frame, he avoids creepiness, and we never fear Johnny will force himself on Frankie.

McDonald’s been convincingly deglamorized as the guarded, sardonic, and increasingly exasperated waitress, and one must admire again her desire (and ability) to transcend the musical roles on which she has built her career. She delivers her nostalgic recollection of her loving grandmother beautifully.

Shannon, ex-con that he admits to being, comes across as lovable, sincere, and gentlemanly as he spouts Shakespeare at the drop of a hat. The dynamic between Frankie and Johnny is, at times, remarkably similar to that between the central characters in Lanford Wilson’s “Burn This”: a brash, not-taking-no-for-an-answer suitor, and a strong-willed woman attracted to him against her better judgement.

Emily Rebholz’s costumes are right on the money for these blue collar characters. Natasha Katz’s nocturnal lighting, and Nevin Steinberg’s ambient sound design are also first-rate.

Despite some repetitiveness in the second act, McNally’s play holds our attention particularly when the leads are embodied by two such dynamic actors.

(Broadhurst Theatre, 235 W 44 St.; Telecharge.com or 212-239-6200; through August 25)

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Happy Talk (The New Group)


By Harry Forbes

A self-absorbed housewife Lorraine (Susan Sarandon in her first play since 2009’s “Exit the King”) -- with a chronically ill (offstage) mother, an ailing (multiple sclerosis), sour-tempered husband Bill (Daniel Oreskes), and an estranged leftist daughter Jenny (Tedra Millan) -- throws herself into amateur theatricals at the local Jewish Community Center, while her undocumented immigrant home health aide Ljuba (Marin Ireland) cares for the incontinent mother. When Ljuba asks Lorraine’s help in finding a husband so she can get a green card and bring over her daughter from Serbia, Lorraine sets her up with Ronny (Nico Santos), one of her cast-mates.

The show in question is “South Pacific” and Lorraine has been improbably cast as Bloody Mary, though the humor inherent of that politically incorrect situation is never explored. However, the Tonkinese character’s matchmaking neatly parallels Lorraine’s efforts on Ljuba’s behalf. The fact that Ronny -- gay and Asian --  is (also improbably) playing Lt. Cable in the show is another clever bit of thematic echoing.

Playwright Jesse Eisenberg has created an intriguing situation, and much of the dialogue is amusing, especially with Lorraine being the archetypal diva, and one who sees herself as universally beloved when that is most clearly not the cast, and Ljuba, the always eager-to-please, self-effacing servant. In their strangely co-dependent relationship, both have unhappy marriages and fractious relationships with their daughters.

The play takes a darker turn with the late-play entrance of the mother-hating daughter Jenny, and the play’s wrap-up is rather unsatisfying and not very believable, even though we’ve been given clues along the way. (At one point, Ronny sings a snippet of "Sunset Boulevard," and there are indeed parallels between Lorraine and Norma Desmond.) I think a less downbeat ending, while still scoring the same character points, might have been possible, but such is a playwright’s prerogative.

Still, it’s a treat to see Sarandon back on stage again, and she’s excellent, though she plays -- or has been directed by Scott Elliott to play -- her character in more muted a fashion than the part ideally would suggest, even if her narcissism is never in doubt. And there’s plenty of humor in her performance, as for instance, when she blithely insists other people’s troubles are as nothing compared to hers. And though she pays lip service to being a loving wife, her slapdash serving of Bill’s meals speaks amusingly to the contrary. On the other hand, Sarandon has a lovely reverie about Bloody Mary which manages to be quite poignant. And at other points, she demonstrates a genuinely softer, more sensitive side, making her actions in the play’s final minutes all the less plausible.

The chameleon-like Ireland, employing a convincing Slavic accent, is an upbeat delight throughout, etching yet another memorable portrayal. Oreskes says little, but he’s a powerful presence. Millan makes the most of her angry foul-mouthed scene. And Santos is funny and real in his scenes.

Derek McLane has designed an attractive living room/kitchen set with theater posters on the wall (e.g. “Pippin,” “Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” etc.), and Clint Ramos’ costumes are ideal. Brett Macias’ music supervision includes chunks of the original cast and soundtrack recordings of “South Pacific,” demonstrating yet again how pervasive and influential the Rodgers and Hammerstein canon has become.

(The Pershing Square Signature Center (The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre, 480 West 42nd Street; TheNewGroup.org or 212-279-4200; through June 16)

L-R: Nico Santos, Susan Sarandon and Marin Ireland in Jesse Eisenberg’s “Happy Talk,” a world premiere production from The New Group, directed by Scott Elliott, at The Pershing Square Signature Center. PHOTO CREDIT: Monique Carboni. for more, www.thenewgroup.org

Monday, May 20, 2019

Posting Letters to the Moon (59E59 Theaters)


By Harry Forbes

Here’s a show that should be pure catnip to any British theater buff: the wartime correspondence between actress Celia Johnson (best remembered for her iconic performance in the classic film “Brief Encounter”) and her husband, travel writer (“Brazilian Adventure”), adventurer and journalist Peter Fleming, read by their daughter, actress Lucy Fleming (who compiled the letters into a theatrical evening), and her husband, Simon Williams, fondly remembered as James Bellamy on “Upstairs, Downstairs.”

The evening comes from London’s Jermyn Street Theatre where it was seen last year.

The letters roughly cover the period 1939 through 1945 when, after four years of marriage, Fleming was sent off to be stationed in New Delhi, while Johnson was ensconced at her husband's estate with her soon-to-be-widowed sister and sister-in-law and (eventually) eight children. During this arduous period, she managed to make three of her most memorable films, all written by Noel Coward: “In Which We Serve,” “Brief Encounter,” and “This Happy Breed.” And she somehow found time to do considerable radio work (e.g. a dramatization of “War and Peace”), serve as an auxiliary police woman, and very much more.

The letters -- along with the connecting narrative -- are voiced with effortless charm by Fleming and Williams accompanied by slide projections, as well as incidental music (by Simon Slater) and modest sound effects where appropriate.

The format may superficially sound reminiscent of A.R. Gurney’s “Love Letters” but actually, given the irregularities of mail delivery during the war, there isn’t quite the back and forth volleying one might expect, but Fleming has done an excellent job of making them as conversational as possible.

In any case, both express the same sentiments of affection, missing the other, and feeling a poignant sense of “endless separation.” Johnson says she never quite knows how to address her letters, and remarks it’s like “posting a letter to the moon.” There’s much humor in the correspondence, and they affectionately call each other “Mr. Flem” and “Mrs. Flem.”

The Johnson letters carry the lion’s share of the narrative, as she worries about management of the household (with its ever revolving door of cooks), and whether she’ll be able to accept this or that role, including two war-related films for director Carol Reed. There are fascinating tidbits about the filming of “Brief Encounter” with co-star Trevor Howard who, she discovered, was eight years younger than she, a fact that greatly disconcerted her. Filming often took place at night night far out of London where the arc-lights would not attract attention from the German bombers. Throughout, there were various royal visits, including those by the Queen Mother and her daughter, the present Queen Elizabeth 2.  
                                 
“I have enjoyed making it a lot but I don’t really believe David Lean and Ronnie Neame know all they should about directing,” Johnson needlessly worries at one point about the fledgling director and cinematographer. And “I do hope I’m good in this film,” she later frets, ever modest.

We hear her first hand account of the incessant bombings during the blitz. In fact, her successful run of Daphne Du Maurier's “Rebecca” was curtailed when the theater was bombed after midnight.

And from the debonair and witty Williams -- offspring of distinguished parentage himself (actors Hugh Williams and Margaret Vyner) --   we hear of Fleming’s concurrent Intelligence work and other wartime assignments, including evading the Japanese when his plane crashed in the Burmese jungle. Besides the letters to Johnson, there’s one to their small son, Nicholas. There was an amusing anecdote about Fleming ordering up a private train to take him from Scotland home, after he missed catching one. Fleming’s brother was James Bond creator Ian, introduced with amusingly understatement as someone “who later had some success as a novelist,” and he, too, makes a few brief appearances in the narrative.

What does come through these letters vividly is the lost art of letter writing in this age of social media and emojis, as Williams articulates in his opening remarks. He speculates that likely the letters were intentionally preserved as a keepsake for their children to learn how it was during those difficult years, with a hope perhaps they would one day have a wider public forum.

Thanks to their daughter and son-in-law’s loving resuscitation, that has become a treasurable reality.  
     
(59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison; 646-892-7999 or visit www.59e59.org; through June 2)
               
L-R: Simon Williams and Lucy Fleming in POSTING LETTERS TO THE MOON at Brits Off Broadway at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Tootsie (Marquis Theatre)


By Harry Forbes

The positive out-of-town buzz on this musical version of the 1982 Dustin Hoffman film turns out to be entirely justified. Tuneful and very, very funny, the show also features a star-making performance by Santino Fontana as Michael Dorsey who, when he can’t seem to land (or keep) a job as a man, decides to impersonate a woman (under the name Dorothy Michaels).

The film’s setting has been cleverly revamped from a soap opera to a Broadway musical, and some outmoded thinking on feminist issues has been dutifully revised for present-day #MeToo sensibilities, though in fairness, director Sydney Pollack’s film was careful to walk a politically correct road in its day, and still holds up well on its own terms.

Arrogant, always questioning Michael Dorsey has alienated preening director Ron Carlisle (very funny Reg Rogers) by tiresomely wanting to know his character’s backstory and motivation, and gets duly bounced. But when his ex-girlfriend Sandy (Sarah Stiles) tells him she’s up for a female role (the nurse) in a sequel to “Romeo and Juliet,” he takes her place in drag, impresses the lead producer Rita Marshall (Julie Halston), and lands the job, unbeknownst to his writer roommate Jeff (Andy Grotelueschen) and agent Stan (Michael McGrath). In his Dorothy persona, he irks Ron in other ways, but wins the respect of the cast including leading lady Julie Nichols (Lilli Cooper), empty-headed hunk Max (John Behlmann), and the rest of the cast.

Michael falls for Julie right away, and it’s not long before Julie too finds herself strangely attracted to the charismatic “Dorothy.” Farcical complications abound as roles get confused.

The cast is marvelous across the board. Fontana’s role allows him to showcase his prodigious skills as a fine dramatic actor as well as a top musical talent, besides demonstrating, as never before, his impeccable comic timing. He navigates the male/female aspects of the role as brilliantly as Hoffman did in the film, but without imitating him, and creates a genuinely lovable character as Dorothy. At times he reminded me of Barry Humphries’ creation Dame Edna Everage. It’s only fair to specially single out Paul Huntley for superlative hair and wig design and Angelina Avallone for make-up.

Fontana has found just the right vocal timbre for his Dorothy songs without resorting to obvious falsetto. His audition piece, “I Won’t Let You Down” simultaneously impresses both the show’s creative team and us.

Cooper is wonderfully warm and empathetic throughout, with a lovely vocal delivery. Stiles -- looking a bit like a madcap Bernadette Peters -- has no trouble navigating her comic tongue-twisting showstopper. Sandy has been written far ditzier here than in the film.  Halston is spot-on perfect as the feminist producer, and lights up the stage with her every appearance. Grotelueschen, Rogers, and Behlmann all excel in riotous roles, and shine in their principal musical moments: “Jeff Sums It Up,” “I’m Alive,” and “This Thing,” respectively.

David Yazbek’s score -- back in traditional musical comedy mode after the Middle Eastern rhythms of “The Band’s Visit” -- is a delight from its bouncy overture onwards. The “Opening Number” (so-called) is intentionally generic, but thereafter, the ear is beguiled by some lovely ballads such as Julie and Dorothy’s “There Was John” and the duet “Who Are You?” for Michael and Julie and humorous numbers including, most witty, Sandy’s frenetic patter song  “Whaddya Do.”

The ensemble number, “The Most Important Night of My Life,” is also a standout, very well staged by choreographer Denis Jones, whose lively work enhances the show..

Robert Horn’s book (based on the film story by Don McGuire and Larry Gelbart) has more outright laugh lines than did the film, the humor of which sprang more from situation. (“It’s not a laugh comedy,” Pollack once said. “It’s Chekhov.”) Though some outmoded dialogue has been scuttled, this is still, in its essentials, a story of a man who becomes a better man by becoming a woman. And though the laughs are plentiful, poignancy has not been sacrificed.

There are significant plot changes from the movie whose screenplay was credited to Gelbart and Murray Schisgal, but with important uncredited contributions from Barry Levinson, Robert Garland, and Elaine May. Besides the change in setting, Julie no longer has an out-of-wedlock baby or a widowed father (who falls for Dorothy), and she no longer has a drinking problem as Jessica Lange’s character did in the film. Nor is she having an ongoing affair with Ron, though Ron does pursue her. Sandy is no longer a current girlfriend as was Garr, but an ex, which makes Michael’s falling in love with Julie less icky. The co-star who falls for Dorothy is not the aging Lothario played by George Gaynes but the dim-witted hunk.

David Rockwell has designed a bright cartoony looking set encompassing Michael and Jeff’s bachelor pad, the theater, the bar and grill where Jeff and Michael work, and other locales, lighted by Donald Holder with colorful costumes by William Ivey Long (and yes, the trademark red dress is here).

The whole is directed by Scott Ellis with an expert hand and exuberant flair.

(Marquis Theatre, 210 W 46th Street; TootsieMusical.com or 877-250-2929)

Monday, May 13, 2019

Ink (Manhattan Theatre Club)


By Harry Forbes

James Graham’s hugely entertaining play -- a hit in 2017 at London’s Almeida Theatre -- about publishing magnate Rupert Murdoch’s acquisition of the failing British tabloid, The Sun, and his challenge to the increasingly aggressive editor Larry Lamb to bypass the circulation of the rival paper, The Daily Mirror, has come to Broadway with one of its leads, Bertie Carvel, as well as the overall creative team, intact.

Jonny Lee Miller, who has taken on Richard Coyle’s part in London,  gives a superb high-octane performance as the driven editor whose competitive tactics involve heavy emphasis on gossip, sensation, giveaways, and heightened coverage of television (then generally considered “competition” by the press).

It isn't long before he steps too far over the line of journalistic ethics by exploiting, against the advice of the authorities and his own staff, the paper's own deputy chairman Sir Alick (Colin McPhillamy) when the latter's wife is kidnapped, leading to tragic results. Less lethal but also morally questionable is his innovation of a naked Page 3 girl, as he convinces a beauteous staffer (Rana Roy) to be the first model. 

Bertie Carvel, Australian accent and all, makes a thoroughly convincing Murdoch, charming and ruthless, though even he becomes squeamish when he feels Lamb has gone too far.

The tautly written play, by turns humorous and appalling -- think of it as “The Front Page” for the modern age -- brilliantly captures this ruthlessly competitive era of Fleet Street journalism, ca. 1969. The heady action is interspersed with musical interludes, choreographed by Lynne Page, which perfectly capture the freewheeling spirit of the period.

Michael Siberry is excellent as The Mirror’s editor Hugh Cudlipp, Lamb’s former boss, and an exemplar of old school journalism. (Can it really be 33 years since this actor first starred in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s “Nicholas Nickleby” revival on Broadway?), and there’s good work too from Andrew Durand; Eden Marryshow; Bill Buell; Tara Summers; Robert Stanton; and Erin Neufer as various staffers which Lamb has wrangled to work at The Sun. Some of the cast play two or more roles.

Bunny Christie’s mountainous set of desks and cabinets, lighted by Neil Austin, and Jon Driscoll’s projection design provide the very apt visuals. Adam Cork composed the original music and designed the heightened amplified sound which add immeasurably to the ambience.

Rupert Goold, artistic director of the Almeida, directs the proceedings at a breakneck pace, and steers his cast to deliver finely detailed performances.

(Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (261 W. 47th Street; Telecharge.com or 212-239-6200; through June 16)

0274 – (l-r) Bertie Carvel, Bill Buell, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Stanton, Eden Marryshow