Follow by Email

Monday, March 26, 2018

Angels in America (Neil Simon Theatre)


By Harry Forbes

Without a doubt, the first Broadway revival of Tony Kushner’s towering two-part work is the theatrical event of the season thus far. I had seen the first part, “Millennium Approaches,” as part of the NT Live satellite transmission, and though I was mightily impressed then, seeing it in person is a much more powerful experience, especially as the performances have only deepened in the transatlantic crossing.

The interlocking plot strands were always brilliantly constructed by Kushner and, on this occasion, are illuminated with great clarity by Elliott.

Prior Walter (Andrew Garfield) and perpetually kvetching boyfriend Louis (James McArdle) break up when Prior reveals he has AIDS, and Louis can’t deal with the messy consequences. Prior’s only support during his illness is a black nurse Belize (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), a campy former drag queen. As his illness progresses, Prior starts to be haunted by visitations from an Angel (Amanda Lawrence).

Mormon couple Joe (Lee Pace) and Harper (Denise Gough) are continually bickering as Joe grapples inwardly with his sexuality. Harper doesn’t suspect the cause, but intensely feels Joe’s growing distance from here. Addicted to valium, Harper has dreams and visions in which her dream state communes with Prior.

Notorious lawyer Roy Cohn (Nathan Lane), for whom Joe works, receives an AIDS diagnosis while vehemently denying his homosexuality. Roy is haunted by the spirit of Ethel Rosenberg (Susan Brown) whom his machinations sent to her death in the electric chair. Roy’s nurse happens to be Belize who warily bonds with Roy, despite the latter’s racist taunts.

Joe’s mother Hannah (Brown) eventually journeys to New York after her son reveals he is gay.


Reaganite politics, Judaic and Mormon spirituality, and homosexuality all converge in a brilliant melange in Kushner’s masterwork, which holds its place as one of the great plays of the 20th century.

The performances, as noted, are all truly outstanding, and the American accents are even more perfect now from the British members of the cast. Lane has never been better, though it’s tempting to say that of every role this extraordinary actor undertakes. He’s bitterly vitriolic and volcanic one moment; sympathetically pitiable the next. Garfield captures Prior’s hysterical fear, while skillfully conveying his coming to a sense of his own destiny. Pace, a superb addition to the Broadway cast, poignantly limns Joe’s anguish as he struggles with his sexual ambivalence. McArdle shows Louis to be a perennial chatterbox whose good intentions are somehow are always wrong-headed is so good you really want to smack him. Stewart-Jarrett brilliantly balances the camp aspects of his role with Belize’s deep caring and compassion.

Gough superbly communicates Harper's desperation and needfulness, and growing sense of self as the plays progress. The other women play multiple roles (there’s some doubling among the men, too), and are quite astonishing. The incredible Susan Brown switches deftly between male and female roles, from a rabbi to Ray Cohn’s doctor to “the oldest living Bolshevik” to Joe’s mother, simply extraordinary in each part. So too, versatile Amanda Lawrence morphs deftly between her roles as the fearsome Angel, a Salt Lake City real estate agent, nurse, and a homeless woman.

This is a cast that deserves every award in the book!


One marvels anew at the epic scope of Kushner’s vision, and Elliott captures every nuance, directing the intimate domestic and hospital scenes with wonderful sensitivity. There are many extraordinary setpieces, directed with consummate stagecraft, such as the overlapping arguments between Joe and Harper and Prior and Louis as their respective relationships disintegrate, Prior’s visitations from his medieval ancestors, the Angel’s scary appearances (Lawrence is manipulated like a puppet by several handlers), and Prior’s ascent to Heaven. The sound effects and music are all fabulous.

Ian McNeil’s outstanding scenic design, which makes use of a revolve and a rising platform, brilliantly etches the various locales from Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain to hospital rooms to the Mormon Visitor Center at Lincoln Center to Heaven itself.

Nicky Gillibrand’s costumes, Paule Constable’s lighting, Adrian Sutton’s portentous music, Ian Dickinson’s sound design all add up to an ace production team.

“Millennium Approaches” is just over three and a half hours, and “Perestroika” is four (each with two intermissions), but the time flies. I saw it on two consecutive nights, and the audience went wild after each, roaring its approval, and leaping to its feet as one the second each play ended.

It all adds up to a magnificent experience, demonstrating how powerful theater, at its finest, can be. Not to be missed.

(Neil Simon Theatre, 250 West 52nd Street; Ticketmaster.com or 877-250-2929)

Photos: Brinkoff - MÅ‘genburg
Top to Bottom:
Andrew Garfield, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
James McArdle, Lee Pace
Nathan Lane

Friday, March 23, 2018

Frozen (St. James Theatre)


By Harry Forbes

The stage version of the hugely popular 2013 animated Disney film is one of the most successful such adaptations, though certainly, by now, the Disney machine has the formula down to a science. The show tried out in Denver last September.

Composers Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez and book writer Jennifer Lee have, for the most part, very skillfully adapted the action-packed tale for the stage, retaining all the songs from the top-of-the-charts soundtrack and adding more (about a dozen) of mostly comparable quality to the movie’s seven or eight numbers. On a purely artistic scale, I’d rate this many notches above the last Disney Theatrical, “Aladdin.”

Satisfyingly cast with powerhouse performers Cassie Levy and Patti Murin beautifully embodying the roles voiced by Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell in the film. But there’s astute casting all down the line.

So, too, there are the expected magical scenic effects designed by Jeremy Chernick to go with Christopher Oram’s richly designed set and costumes.

The plot will be familiar to fans of the film, concerning as it does the two daughters, Elsa (Ayla Schwartz/Levy) and Anna (Matta Conforti/Murin)  of Queen Iduna (Ann Sanders) and King Agnarr (James Brown III) in the kingdom of Arendelle. Elsa has inherited magical powers involving snow and ice which, it soon becomes apparent, she doesn’t yet know how to contain.

When one of her feats nearly kills kid sister Anna, the parents decide the girls must be kept apart for their own good. Years pass, and at Elsa’s coronation, Anna meets and falls in love with Hans (John Riddle), a youthful prince from a neighboring kingdom. Elsa forbids their engagement, and in the fracas, inadvertently sets off an eternal winter in the kingdom, and horrified even though she doesn’t know half about the damage she’s caused, she flees the castle to live in an isolated ice palace.

The intrepid Anna goes off to help her sister, leaving Hans in charge. Anna is helped on her journey by mountain man Kristoff (Jelani Alladin) and his trusty reindeer Sven (Andrew Pirozzi). And they are joined by an anthropomorphized snowman Olaf (Greg Hildreth who handles the puppetry, designed by Michael Curry, and acts the role). He’s good, and the Olaf puppet matches his cartoon image, but somehow the device isn’t quite successful.

British stage director Michael Grandage, helming the first new musical of his career, treats the story with appropriate gravitas and fun as the story requires. (He has stated in interviews that he sees parallels in this story with Shakespeare’s pastoral comedies, and that seriousness of purpose is evident here. He doesn’t evade the darker elements of the story.)  

Director/choreographer Rob Ashford handles the dances including the witty “Hygge” number for trading post proprietor Oaken (Kevin Del Aguila) and the travelers, culminating in, of all crazy things, a naked kick line (G-rated, of course).

Levy brings down the house with the big ballad “Let It Go” (which includes an eye-popping costume change), and makes the number (memorably belted by Menzel in the film) her own. Murin’s big moment comes near the end with a lovely new ballad, “True Love,” very touchingly sung. Vocalizing aside, the absolute sincerity of their performances really impresses. Levy captures Elsa’s imperious, conscientious, and perfectionist qualities, while Murin conveys Anna’s spunkiness, fierce loyalty, and sense of fun.

Anna and Hans’ “Love Is An Open Door” duet at the coronation is delightfully performed, and Ashford’s given them some very amusing knockabout moves for their dance. Of the new songs, Hans’ introductory “Hans of the Southern Isles,” Anna and Kristoff’s cute “What Do You Know About Love?” duet and Elsa’s “Monster” ballad are further standouts.

As with the film, the plot isn’t entirely plausible, even in fairy tale terms, but the whole enterprise is definitely more satisfying than not, and fans of the film (especially the young ones) will not be disappointed, even with the necessary omission of some of the film’s purely action sequences.

The blue chip design team also includes Natasha Katz (lighting), Peter Hylenski (sound), Finn Ross (video), David Brian Brown (hair), Anne Ford-Coates (makeup). Music supervisor Stephen Oremus did the satisfying vocal, incidental and dance arrangements. and Dave Metzger the orchestrations, under Music Director Brian Usifer.

(St. James Theatre, 246 West 44 Street; 866-870-2717 or FrozenTheMusical.com)

Photo by Deen van Meer.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Three Small Irish Masterpieces (Irish Repertory Theatre)


By Harry Forbes

This rather prosaically titled evening sums up what you’re getting succinctly: three short expertly crafted plays by William Butler Yeats, Lady Gregory, and John Millington Synge.

But there’s nothing at all commonplace about the production which is very fine indeed. Beautifully directed by Charlotte Moore, atmospherically designed by James Morgan, and extremely well acted by a versatile ensemble of only six players, the 72-minute collection is well worth your time.

In “The Pot of Broth,” the Yeats piece (co-written with Lady Gregory), a wily tramp (amusing David O’Hara) cons a stingy wife (Clare O’Malley) and her amiable husband (Colin Lane) into believing he has a magic stone that, with merely the addition of little water, will make broth or wine or, in fact, any desired liquid. The fact that the tramp skillfully contrives to wheedle the other ingredients out of them for the pot seems to go over their heads.

In Lady Gregory’s “The Rising of Moon,” filmed in 1957 by John Ford as part of another triptych of Irish tales, a sergeant (Lane) stands guard hoping to catch a wanted rebel who’s broken out of jail, and collect the 100 pound reward. A “ragged man” balladeer (Adam Petherbridge), whom we suspect may be the escapee, comes along and engages him in small talk unearthing long dormant rebel sympathies on the part of the sergeant.

In Synge’s “Riders to Sea,” an anxious mother Maurya (Terry Donnelly) implores her last surviving son (Petherbridge) not to go to sea, and perish as his five siblings and father did before him. Her two daughters (O’Malley and McVey) attempt to comfort her, and also conceal the fact that Maurya’s last drowned son’s clothes have washed up on shore. The mood is rife with tragedy, and it’s beautifully conveyed.

This most somber of the three plays was famously turned into an opera by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1927, and there have been other musical adaptations as well.

Donnelly is superb as the grieving matriarch, but all the actors are very fine whether in comic or serious mode. There’s music, too. Petherbridge starts things off with a ballad, and music is nicely employed throughout. Linda Fisher’s costumes and Michael Gottlieb’s lighting are further classy plusses.

(Irish Rep Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street on the W. Scott McLucas Studio Stage; 212-727-2737 or irishrep.org; through April 15)

Photo: Carol Rosegg. Pictured: Colin Lane, David O'Hara, and Clare O'Malley in "The Pot of Broth."  

Friday, March 16, 2018

Escape to Margaritaville (Marquis Theatre)


By Harry Forbes

Yes, this is yet another of those jukebox musicals, this time crafted around the songs of country-rock star Jimmy Buffett, but by golly, much as I disdain the genre, I found “Escape to Margaritaville” thoroughly engaging. Book writers Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley have done their job of shoehorning the Buffett playlist into a plausible story most skillfully.

There are some new songs too in their script about an island destination in the Caribbean. Cincinnati girlfriends Rachel (Alison Luff), an overly earnest environmental scientist, and Tammy (Lisa Howard), engaged to be married to a crude fellow named Chadd (Ian Michael Stuart) who has problems with Tammy’s weight issues and her punning sense of humor, have come there for a bachelorette vacation.

At the ramshackle resort hotel run by sassy lady Marley (very likable Rema Webb who has a way with a one-liner), they encounter the resident beach bum singer Tully (Paul Alexander Nolan) and bartender Brick (Eric Petersen). Rounding out the central characters there’s aging hippie and former pilot J.D. (Don Sparks) and Marley’s assistant Jamal (Andre Ward).

Inevitably, of course, uptight Rachel falls for Tully, and Tammy does likewise for Chadd, though as she’s resolved to be faithful to Chadd, the latter relationship stays platonic.

The Buffett songs are introduced with some ingenious cues in the script. Some are intentionally obvious for comic effect, and the audience laughs good naturedly; others are more subtle. Nolan eases into the title number very nicely, as the audience hums along. Sparks has fun with a coy, audience participation rendition of “Why Don’t We Get Drunk (and S----)?” But it all adds up to very easygoing entertainment. Buffett’s music is well served by Michael Utley’s orchestrations and Gary Adler’s dance arrangements, all expertly led by Music Director Christopher Jahnke.

The ending feels a bit perfunctory, and Rachel’s eventual succumbing to Tully is rather protracted. But hey, it allows time for a few more pleasant numbers.

Walt Spangler has designed a cheerfully colorful island setting, rather like “Spongebob Squarepants” in its bright color palette, and Paul Tazewell’s costumes are likewise festive and bright with Howell Binkley’s lighting adding to the upbeat ambience. As in “Spongebob,” incidentally, a volcano serves a major plot point, and there’s a number where a character declares he always wanted to be in a big tap number. In this case, it’s Petersen who gets to strut his stuff. There are two instances of neat aerial stunts which add to the fun.

The cast sings beautifully and they’re all extremely likable. Nolan has a great voice coupled with lots of charm and charisma. Howard follows up her scene-stealing “It Shoulda Been You” role with another impressive outing. Petersen is lovable and you root for him and Tammy to click which, of course, they do. Luff is a lovely heroine in the Laura Osnes mode, even when her character is bit of a pill. Vocally, everyone is top-notch.

Christopher Ashley directs the proceedings with the requisite light touch, and Kelly Devine has provided some nice dance numbers, even bizarrely involving the spirits of the deceased insurance salesmen who died during a volcanic eruption years earlier.

During the finale, beach balls (lots of them) are hurled into the audience, reminiscent of the far less successful Beach Boys musical “Good Vibrations” over a decade ago.

The substance of the show began to evaporate within minutes of leaving the Marquis Theatre. But I had a good time while it lasted, and I think you will, too.

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Amy and the Orphans (Roundabout Theatre Company)


By Harry Forbes

Here's a sad-funny play about an adult brother and sister traveling to their late father’s memorial with the sister they barely know, the titular Amy. She has Down syndrome and both Maggie and Jacob (who now consider themselves “orphans”) are waiting for the right time to break the news of their parents’ death to Amy. (It happens the the mother has died as well several months earlier.)

Joining them on the Long Island Expressway road trip is Amy’s tough but compassionate Italian pregnant caregiver Kathy. A parallel story involving troubled couple Sarah and Bobby at a marriage counseling center, which opens the play, eventually dovetails with the first plot.

Lindsey Ferrentino’s 90-minute play was inspired by her own aunt who had Down syndrome, and who had been institutionalized. She has a fine knack for capturing natural speech rhythms, and the play, despite the heavy-seeming theme,  is thankfully quite humorous much of the time.

Jamie Brewer, a Down syndrome actress who has appeared on “American Horror Story,” is extraordinary as movie fanatic Amy (she holds a job at a local cinema), and delivers the play’s final monologue with impressive passion and poignancy. But all the performances are spot-on. Diane Davis and Josh McDermitt as the troubled couple attempting to reconcile win our sympathy from the start. Monk is terrific as real estate agent Maggie, the lonely and phobic divorced sibling, as is Mark Blum as her brother, the health conscious born again Christian Jacob, who tries rather hilariously to explain the concept of death to Amy with straws representing the continuum of life. Vanessa Aspillaga shines as Kathy, particularly in a long monologue about her “pothead” boyfriend’s dysfunctional sister.

Rachel Hauck’s set morphs fluidly from counseling room to airport to car to Burger King and other dreary locations.

The subject matter is worthy, to be sure, and, more broadly, says something about family and how we might undervalue certain relatives and be clueless of their true worth. Still it must be said, some surprising twists notwithstanding, the main story arc is rather predictable. To its credit, the play avoids mawkish sentimentality, as does Scott Ellis’s assured direction, which draws fine performances from the cast. The comic scenes, such as the memorial in a Chinese restaurant, are expertly staged.

Interestingly, Brewer has a male understudy, Edward Barbanell, necessitating a title change to “Andy and the Orphans” at his performances.

(Roundabout at Laura Pels Theatre, Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre, 111 West 46th Street; 212.719.1300 or  roundabouttheatre.org; through April 22)


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Jerry Springer: The Opera (The New Group)


By Harry Forbes

One might have thought that 15 years after its 2003 premiere at London’s National Theatre (after which it transferred to the West End for a healthy run) that the musical about the talk show host, whose ratings actually peaked in the late 1990s, might not stand the test of time. But in this splendid New Group revival, powerfully sung and sharply acted, “Jerry Springer: The Opera” proves bountifully entertaining.

Composer/lyricist Richard Thomas (and his collaborator Stewart Lee who co-wrote the book and provided additional lyrics) have truly constructed the piece as a modern opera, and the present cast brings superb voices to their parts making for a vocally resplendent evening, though the words -- satirically echoing the lowest common denominator types who appeared on the show -- are blatantly crude. Obscenities and f-bombs abound, but it’s all valid satire, and the contrast with the arresting music only heightens the humor.

The first act is modelled on a typical episode of the show with the excellent Will Swenson a warm up man vacillating between seeming adoration for his boss, and deep resentments. The two side rows of the Linney theater are taken by cast members as “Jerry Springer Show” audience members. Finally, Jerry Springer, in the person of multi-talented Terrence Mann, makes his entrance, after which a very colorful (to put it mildly) succession of guests -- outrageously outfitted by Sarah Laux -- bare their hilariously sordid lives. Springer himself keeps his cool, leaving crowd control to Swenson’s warm-up character and and security man Steve (Billy Hepfinger). In the midst of the onstage chaos, Springer reminds us that, paradoxically, he was once mayor of Cincinnati and campaign manager for Robert Kennedy no less.

The “guests” include blue collar Dwight (Luke Grooms) who reveals his "guilty secret" to fiancee Peaches (Florrie Bagel): namely, he’s been cheating on her with her best friend (Beth Kirkpatrick), but wait, also with transvestite Tremont (Sean Patrick Doyle). Then there’s Montel (Justin Keyes) who wants his wife to mother him like a baby in diapers (and all that, um, goes with it), thereupon stripping down for the rest of the evening, and introduces Baby Jane (Jill Paice) who wants a share of the same role playing too. Finally there’s redneck Chucky (Nathaniel Hackmann) and his wife Shawntel (Tiffany Mann) who passionately yearns to be a pole dancer, much to Chucky’s disgust as well as that of her mother Irene (Jennifer Allen).

When Jerry is accidentally shot by a deranged guest (who was actually aiming at member of the Klu Klux Klan who come on doing a tap dance number), Jerry ends up in Purgatory where Satan (Swenson again) insists Jerry stage a show to set things right between him and Jesus, overriding Jerry’s objections that he doesn’t do conflict resolution.

The characters from the first half now return as Jesus (Keyes), Adam (Hackmann), Eve (Tiffany Mann), Mary (Allen) and even God (Grooms). It was this particular part of the show that raised the ire of Christian groups back in 2003 leading to protests against the show, and later the BBC when a televised version was shown, and outside Carnegie Hall when the show was given in concert form in 2008.

With the passage of time, these sequences somehow seem less outrageous than originally, or perhaps it’s just that we’ve seen so much more. Stil, if you were likely to be offended 15 years ago, chances are you’d feel much the same way now.

Aesthetic and religious sensibilities aside, the second act is simply not as much fun as the first. I remember feeling a distinct let down when I first saw the show in London. But watching it again, I felt the act’s basic premise -- accepting the warts and all of humanity, and taking care of yourself and each other -- is well intended, and certainly the quality of the music and lyrics never flags. The overall score, in fact, seems more impressive than ever with its canny mix of opera, show tunes, and pop tunes.

Terrence Mann makes an excellent Jerry Springer, if not the lookalike Michael Brandon was in the London production. It’s a mostly non-singing role, though he’s got a bit of singing in the second act. Swenson is outstanding in both his diabolical roles. Doyle’s tenor impressed throughout. Paice’s ethereal soprano was another highlight. But it was Tiffany Mann’s soulful pole dancing number that won the biggest hand.

John Rando is quite the perfect director for this sort of thing. He brings much the same comic sensibility as he did with “Urinetown” and he doesn’t disappoint with ingenious touches throughout. Chris Bailey did the clever choreography, including a fun bubble number, and the aforementioned KKK tap dance.

This is a smaller production than the original, but Derek McLane’s set, Jeff Croiter’s lighting, and Joshua Reid’s sound design (some overloading in the louder passages notwithstanding) are first-rate.

Terrence Mann is exiting the show on March 13 because of prior commitments and Matt McGrath will take over the Springer role for the show’s well deserved three-week extension.

(The Pershing Square Signature Center, The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre, 480 West 42nd Street; www.thenewgroup.org or Ticket Central at 212-279-4200; through April 1)

L-R: Terrence Mann, Billy Hepfinger, Beth Kirkpatrick, Florrie Bagel, Luke Grooms, Sean Patrick Doyle. PHOTO CREDIT: Monique Carboni / www.thenewgroup.org

Monday, March 5, 2018

Ladies First (Victor Herbert Renaissance Project Live!)


By Harry Forbes

The enterprising VHRP Live! Company has come up with something delightfully different on this occasion. Not a revival of a single work, like this past fall's “The Red Mill” or the upcoming April production of “The Enchantress,” but a potpourri concert centered on the composer's songs for and about women, and best of all, the exceptionally well chosen selections were a mostly unfamiliar bunch, with nary an “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life” within earshot. So, too, the emphasis was Herbert in his musical comedy mode.

Even the two most substantial selections, from “Mlle. Modiste” and “Orange Blossoms” respectively, focused on the less commonly heard items from those shows. In her intermission remarks, VHRP Artistic Director Alyce Mott (who authored the evening's witty libretto) hinted that she would very much like to mount the former and certainly, the five selections heard here whet the appetite for more. Light Opera of New York (LOONY) staged a revamped adaptation of the latter in 2014, and the songs live on in an Albany Records recording.

A particularly blue chip cast was assembled for the evening comprised of 24 songs, all in splendid form. The lively vaudeville-style direction was in the hands of the expert Emily Cornelius, who created similar magic with last year’s “Son of Dublin” concert. Neat choreography on this occasion was devised by Susanna Organic whose nifty steps were well executed by the performers.

Soprano Tanya Roberts made an effervescent co-host and sang with rich tone -- getting the evening off to an amusing start with “The Lady and the Kick” (“the five-foot lady with the eight-foot kick” runs the refrain) from the 1897 “The Idol's Eye,” one of several comic songs that demonstrated far more wit than lyricists of that era are given credit. Frequent Herbert collaborator Harry B. Smith wrote that one, and there was more of his excellent work throughout the evening, as well as that of his brother Robert B. Smith, Henry Blossom, Glen MacDonough, Gene Buck, and Buddy De Sylva. In a cute bit of staging, Roberts later donned a doctor’s coat as she dispensed love advice with “You’ll Feel Better Then” from “The Rose of Algeria.”



Veteran baritone David Seatter had a particularly droll number with “The Balloon Song – I Just Dropped In,” involving the rather extraordinary places his character has traveled in his hot air balloon (including the moon!). In the second act Seatter sang the praises of “Miss Dolly Dollars” from the show of that name, accompanied by the male members of the company, and later paired with Roberts on the raggy (and surprisingly still up-to-date) “New York is the Same Old Place” from “Orange Blossoms.”

The versatile Alexa Devlin, who switches with ease from her rich contralto to a Broadway belt,  showed off the former in the unusual “Song of the Priestess” from “The Idol’s Eye,” and the latter in Mlle. Modiste’s very funny “The Keokuk Social Club.”

Soprano Sarah Caldwell Smith deftly handled the extended set piece from “Mlle. Modiste” -- “If I Were on the Stage” which culminates in the evening’s most familiar number, “Kiss Me Again” -- and socked over the same show’s “The Mascot of the Troop” with high flying brio. And soprano Joanie Brittingham, last year’s “Eileen,” dressed in cap and gown, charmed with “Professor Cupid” from “The Debutante,” as she bemoaned never having learned love in school, and later, ”The Lonely Nest” from “Orange Blossoms.”

Rich-voliced baritone Richard Holmes made up a third of an unusual trio from “The Debutante” -- “The Love of the Lorelei” (with Devlin and Greenwood), but his big moment came near the end with his suavely delivered “This Time It’s Love” from “Orange Blossoms.”

Herbert’s work for legendary showman Florenz Ziegfeld was represented by two over-the-top paeans to women, in the Follies style, “The Century Girl” and “The Princess of My Dreams.” The former was well sung by tenor Daniel Greenwood, wittily accompanied by the ladies of the company who paraded out as showgirls, followed by tenor Anthony Maida rhapsodic “The Princess of My Dreams.”

Maida was the evening’s other ingratiating co-host and showed off his strong tenor also in “The Time and the Place and the Girl” from “Mlle. Modiste.”

Always reliable baritone Matthew Wages delivered “The Dear Little Girl Who Is Good” impeccably, and anchored his other numbers including the funny “Way Out West in Jersey” (with Devlin) from “Orange Blossoms.”

Two of the songs took a lightly cynical view of marriage -- “Married Life” from “The Debutante” (Roberts, Wages, and Greenwood), and “Let’s Not Get Married” from “Orange Blossoms.” The latter was one of two particularly well constructed sextets, the other being “The Face Behind the Mask” from “The Debutante.”



Natalie Ballenger had her first pearly moment with the pointedly delivered “She’s A Very Good Friend of Mine” from “It Happened in Nordland.” In the song, her character bitchily decimates her alleged girlfriends behind their backs.

The evening ended with a tantalizing preview of “The Enchantress” with Ballenger and Greenwood in passionate duet singing “To the Land of My Own Romance,” preceded by its introductory song “Rose, Lucky Rose.”

All of this was ably accompanied by Musical Director Michael Thomas at the piano, assuring that everything was done in fine, authentic style.

(Victor Herbert Renaissance Project Live!, Christ & St. Stephen’s Church, 120 West 69th St.; www.vhrplive.org; February 27 and 28 only)


Photos: Jill LeVine


Top to bottom:
L-R: David Seatter, Matthew Wages, Richard Holmes, Joanie Brittingham, Daniel Greenwood, and Anthony Maida

L-R: Sarah Caldwell Smith, Joanie Brittingham, Matthew Wages, Alexa Devlin and Tanya Roberts

L-R: Matthew Wages, Tanya Roberts, Alexa Devlin and Anthony Maida