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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Happiness

A disparate group of New Yorkers find themselves trapped on a subway car with a sardonic conductor (Hunter Foster), and slowly realize they're all dead. They must remember their happiest moment before making the transition to the next world where they will live in that sublime moment forever. (There's no mention of God in this scenario.)

The basic premise is hardly new. Still, playwright John Weidman and director/choreography Susan Stroman make it fresh as, one by one, each passenger comes to recollect that precious moment -- a father taking his son to a baseball game, a woman's dance with a soldier before he goes to war never to return, a divorced Latino messenger sharing a bonding moment with his little girl, and so on.

Not all the segments are completely successful. There's a well acted but mawkish sequence involving a decorator saying farewell to his lover who's dying of AIDS.
The cast in this Lincoln Center Theater production is strong, including Jenny Powers as a hard-edged gal who needs to straighten out her priorities, and Joanna Gleason as a brittle right-wing talk show host.

The opening street scene sequence showing all the characters before they meet their earthly demise is particularly inventive, as is Foster's razzmatazz number about climbing the corporate ladder.

The score, by the "Grey Gardens" team of Scott Frankel (music) and Michael Korie (lyrics), sounds good, if not memorable, on first hearing.

Chances are you'll find yourself moved to reflect on your own happiest moments. (Mitzi Newhouse Theater, 150 W. 65th St., (212) 239-6200 or Telecharge.com) Print this post

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