Thursday, September 29, 2011

cd review Liz Callaway and Ann Hampton Callaway - "Boom! Live at Birdland"

There are some Broadway performers who are better in a musical production or on a recording than in live concert performances.  Either they don't have the appropriate "patter" between songs, or don't find a good way to present their songs to connect to a paying audience to hold their attention for a 60 to 90 minute show.   Two of the best musical theatre performers who know how to "do" live performances are sisters and Tony nominees Liz Callaway and Ann Hampton Callaway.  Their second duo cd, "Boom," a live recording of their concert of the same name, has just been released, and it is a winner.

Now technically Ann is more of a jazz performer than a musical theater one, but she did receive a Tony nom for her Broadway debut in Swing.   Liz was in the original Broadway casts of Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along, Baby and Miss Saigon as well as played many performances on Broadway as Grizabella in Cats.  She got her Tony nomination for Baby.  The Callaway sisters were born in the Chicago suburbs but both ended up in New York City in the early 80's and have each found success individually in the worlds of Broadway, Jazz, cabaret and concert performances.  Ann is also a successful song writer having written songs for many recording artists including Barbra Streisand as well as the theme song for the tv show The Nanny.

Liz Callaway and Ann Hampton Callaway
"Boom" presents songs of the 60's and 70's and the personal stories that Ann and Liz tell in this recorded concert about their upbringing and how these songs connected to them are great.  Liz has actually been down this road before, releasing a recording, "The Beat Goes On" that includes songs from that same period including a few that are repeated on this cd.

Ann and Liz's voices, while very different, combine perfectly on the numerous songs they perform.   Beautiful vocal arrangements highlight the differences in their voices while providing the appropriate blending necessary to provide a rich sound.  I like how many times one sister will provide back-up vocals for the other that in no way outshines the sister soloing.  The three piece band lead by musical director Alex Rybeck on piano provides a lush musical accompaniment that sounds much larger and full than just a piano, drums and bass.

The 22 tracks on the recording include many medleys and duets but also allow each sister a couple of solo moments to stand alone.  Some of the great songs on the cd include the Beatle's "Come Together" and "Yesterday," the Streisand hit "The Way We Were," "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" and several medleys including one that includes a rousing version of "Joy to the World."  A snazzy, slowed down arrangement of "These Boots are Made For Walking" that perfectly captures the strength of each sister's chops as well as the natural humor they each have is a personal favorite.  This is followed by a simply stunning and heartbreaking arrangement of Carly Simon's "That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be" that allows for some beautiful Callaway Sister harmonies.

Solo highlights on the cd include lovely versions of "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me," a pairing of Jimmy Webb songs "Didn't We/MacArthur Park" and a gorgeous blending of "I Know a Place" and "Downtown" for Liz and striking renditions of  "A Case of You," and "Blowin' in the Wind" for Ann.

An excellent medley of Stevie Wonder songs ends the set before a beautiful encore of the Carole King hit "You've Got a Friend," which is a perfect end to the personal story of two sisters who are clearly the best of friends.

All in all, this is a superb recording for anyone who grew up to the music of the 60's and 70's as well as anyone who is a fan of the music from those decades.

Highly recommended

Ann and Liz at Barnes and Noble - performance promoting the release of "Boom!" -

Sunday, September 25, 2011

theatre review - NEWSIES, Papermill Playhouse, September 24

Turning a hit movie into a Broadway musical isn't anything new, but making a Broadway calibre show out of a flop movie musical isn't exactly something that you'd think a producer would put their money behind or where any creative talent would waste their efforts.  However, Disney Theatricals and The Paper Mill Playhouse have combined to present the stage musical Newsies based on the flop 1992 movie of the same name.  It officially opens tonight, we saw it yesterday and boy, do Disney and Papermill have a huge hit on their hands.

The film, inspired by the real life Newsboy Strike of 1899 and featuring music by multi Oscar winner Alan Menken and lyrics by Jack Feldman was a $15 million dollar movie that grossed less than $3 million at the box office.  But years of cable tv runs of the film and video and dvd sales along with the fact that Christian Bale played the lead in the film has turned the movie into somewhat of a cult classic.  The score has several rousing anthems, all of which have been brought to the stage and even expanded and Menken and Feldman have also written several new songs to fill out the score.

Lindsay and Jordan
Set in 1899, the musical tells the story of the gang of mostly orphan newsboys who deliver the news to New York City.  These "newsies" stage a protest when publisher Joseph Pulitzer raises the price they must pay for their supply of papers only to boost his own profits.  Led by Jack Kelly (Jeremy Jordan) who is inspired by the ongoing trolley worker's strike and their ability to organize themselves, along with Davey (Ben Fankhauser), the older of two brothers who are selling papers due to their father being out of work.  However, they quickly find trying to get a group of kids to go against the adult run city is harder then they thought.

The musical has a new book by four-time Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein who expanded on the screenplay by Bob Tzudiker & Noni White.  Fierstein's theatrical touches are prominent throughout the show and his sense of warmth and humour, as well as smart, realistic dialogue turn the story into something more relevant and by doing so, completely allows the show to connect with an audience in the live theatre setting.   He was definitely a good choice to turn the movie into something more.   He has also wisely turned the reporter character from the film into a young female newspaper reporter who is now a romantic interest for Jack.  There are also some new twists in the plot that are welcome additions.

Director Jeff Calhoun has assembled a first rate cast.  Jordan has "Broadway star" written all over him, he completely embodies the character of Jack, has the appropriate thick "New Yawk" accent, gritty look and feel, but is also natural as the perfect leader of the boys and foil to Pulitzer.  He also has an amazing and powerful singing voice. Both Calhoun and Jordan are moving on to the Broadway production of Bonnie and Clyde after Newsies where Jordan will be starring as "Clyde."  I expect big things from Jordan.

Kara Lindsay is Katherine, the new character of the female reporter added for the stage version and Lindsay has the looks and pipes to carry off the young fast talking, feisty reporter who's trying to prove herself in a world of men.  Like Jordan, she is also an excellent singer.  Lindsay was the lead in the tour of the musical version of Little House on the Prairie that started at Paper Mill a couple of years back.  She was perfect in that musical as well, but is actually given a better score to sing in this production.

Keenan-Bolger and Jordan (center) and the
rest of the "Newsies"
John Dosset is Pulitzer, and while he is only given a little to do in both acts Dosset does a fine job in playing the villain of the piece.  He also has a really strong singing voice.  While most of the "newsies" aren't as easily singled out, Andrew Keenan-Bolger is "Crutchie" and he and Jack have a special bond.  Keenan-Bolger plays the part of the kid with the bum leg perfectly and you can easily see why Jack feels like he needs to protect him.  "Santa Fe" one of the best remembered songs from the movie, opens the musical in a somewhat quieter version then the movie, and Jordan and Keenan-Bolger do a nice job in dueting on the song.  It is a song about dreams and moving on to someplace better, and having the two of them sing the song perfectly captures the special bond that the two have as well as how Jack feels he needs to protect Crutchie, even though Crutchie can handle himself perfectly well.

Ben Fankhauser and RJ Fattori as brothers Davey and Les are completely believable as brothers who turn to hawking newspapers while their father is out of work.  They look and act like they come from a slightly more well off place then the rest of the "newsies" but have no problem in connecting with Jack.  While Fanhauser is given more of the "straight man" part to play, not just against Jordan as the born leader, but also against Fattori, who gets some nice laughs in his part, he also has a nice sense of intelligence, education and truth that is a nice balance with the street smart Jack. 

Jordan inspring the "newsies" to stand together
Now while most of the new songs aren't quite as good as the ones from the film, Menken and Feldman have written one song for Katherine that is a gem.  An excellent theatre song that not only is character based but also drives the plot forward and has some excellent rhymes.   The song also gets a reprise in act two

The choreography by Christopher Gattelli, is rousing and is original yet in the style of the film and the cast delivers on what is required of them.  Gattelli cleverly uses newspapers as a dance prop in one number and the energetic "King of New York" tap number in act two was a huge crowd favorite. Ryan Steele, who plays "Specs" has the perfect combination of ballet and athletics that the choreography requires, and he is given many chances to show off his abilities.   The rest of the boys are on par with Steele, and the joy they bring to all of the dance numbers is infectious.

Calhoun keeps the show moving at a fast speed, and the sets by Tobin Ost are fantastic.  Check out the photo below as well as the video clips at the bottom of my review.  A three tiered steel set of stairs that is almost constantly moving around the stage, it is perfectly paired with projections by Sven Ortel to become the tenement where Jack lives, the backstage of a theatre where Jack spends his time painting backdrops and even the Brooklyn Bridge. 

Costumes by Jess Goldstein are also first rate.  The brown and dark tweeds for the "newsies" the pin stripped suits for the more wealthy businessmen, the colorful costumes for Katherine and Jack's theatre friend Medda and even red hued clothes for the Brooklyn "newsies" perfectly establish the time, place and feel of the show.
All in all, Newsies is a rousing turn of the century story of David vs Goliath, with an excellent cast featuring a star making performance in the lead, a smart book, huge sets, perfect period costumes, energetic choreography and clear direction.  With the Disney corporation behind this production can Broadway be far behind?  I clearly hope so.  

The Paper Mill production runs through October 16.

Paper Mill Playhouse Official Site

Performance on "The View"-

Behind the Scenes Playbill clip -

Jeremy Jordan in rehearsal sings "Santa Fe" -

"Santa Fe" from the movie -

Friday, September 23, 2011

cd review - Dean Regan - Give My Regards to Broadway

Dean Regan may not be a name familiar to most Broadway audiences.  But as someone who appeared in the First National Tour of The Pirates of Penzance as well as in the Broadway production of that show, and then appeared in many regional and West Coast productions of musicals as well as in various cabaret engagements, he has more than enough experience to pull off a nice collection of showtunes.

His debut cd Give My Regards to Broadway is a representation of his concert of the same name that he has performed around the country.  The recording combines many classic Broadway standards by Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Frank Loesser, Burton Lane and Yip Harburg, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Stephen Schwartz.  Shows covered include Guys and Dolls, Finian's Rainbow, Company, Merrily We Roll Along, Phantom of the Opera, Pirates of Penzance, Man of La Mancha, South Pacific and Wicked.  The recording is a nice variety of material, featuring romantic ballads, heartfelt songs and comical tunes and Regan delivers them with conviction and depth and meets the demands on just about every song on the cd.  

For someone who made their Broadway debut 30 years ago, Regan's voice is extremely strong and youthful. Now, most solo recordings made by those who aren't Broadway "names" usually only feature piano accompaniment, but Regan has definitely made the right decision to have a group of musicians backing him up.  One of the great things about the tracks on the recording is that each song's arrangements don't sound like the others.  Some have more of a jazz sound, others are more in the Broadway standard arrangement style and still others have a Latin or comical tone.  The credit for that has to go to Orchestrator and Music Supervisor Nick Fryman who also provided many of the arrangements.  After listening to several other solo recordings from musical theatre performers that only feature piano or others where every song on the cd has a "jazz" or "broadway" style arrangement this is a welcome touch, and along with Regan's more than capable skills make this recording one that warrants alot of repeat play.

The recording starts off with a very upbeat version of "Give My Regards to Broadway"  I love how the arrangement adds in a few lines from "On Broadway,"  "Lullaby of Broadway," and  "New York, New York."  Regan's fun and lively performance perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the songs to follow.  You know you'll be in good hands based on this track alone.

"Luck Be a Lady" from Guys and Dolls has a great Latin feel to it, and Regan has a lot of fun, starting out nice and slow and then really building the song to a nice conclusion.  "Not a Day Goes By" is a fairly standard delivery of this classic Sondheim gem from Merrily We Roll Along but is delivered in a nice, somewhat understated though very clear way.

"Old Devil Moon" from Finian's Rainbow is one of my favorite showtunes and I absolutely love the arrangement by Tom Griep on this cd that includes beautiful piano playing and a pounding percussion beat.  Regan more than delivers on this track, he has a great time "swinging' it and the end is perfection.  "Music of the Night" from The Phantom of the Opera has a lush, full arrangement and Regan does a nice job with it, enunciating the lyrics but giving a nice theatrical touch to the song as well.

"Everybody Says Don't" from Sondheim's Anyone Can Whistle, is simply beautiful.  The way Regan is able to speak/sing some of the lyrics perfectly captures the discussional and somewhat confessional style of the song.  This is followed by a heartfelt "Being Alive" from Company with a simple, straightforward arrangement that begins slow and builds in tandem with Regan's delivery of the song.   Regan must have made a pretty good "Bobby" in the LA production he did of this show, which he won several awards for.

"Once in Love with Amy" is probably the least known track on the recording, or should I say from the least known musical Where's Charley?  Regan nicely captures the romantic and upbeat nature of this love song.  Again, the arrangement is completely unlike any of the others on the cd, and perfectly works with Regan's performance of the song.  The eight minute Man of La Mancha track includes the chance for Regan to show more of his acting abilities as it starts out with a few lines of dialogue from the show and includes "I, Don Quixote," "Dulcinea," "To Each His Dulcinea," and "The Impossible Dream."   It is a nice track that perfectly captures some of the best music from this show and Regan more then delivers on each of the songs included. 

Regan has a lot of fun with Penzance's "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General."  It is the patter song to end all patter songs and Regan has no problem navigating around the lyrics as they get faster and faster. I love the horse sound effect used in the song.  "This Nearly Was Mine" from South Pacific has a lovely arrangement and Regan attempts to capture the pain behind the lyrics, and while he nearly pulls it off, his delivery is a little too styled and not quite strong enough to deliver what this song requires, so he doesn't quite bring the song to the heights that a few others have been able to take it to.  It is a good attempt but just doesn't quite make it.

The recording ends with two songs from Wicked, and after the selections above of songs from shows that are mainly from the 1940's to 1980's these last two very modern songs seem a little out of odds with what has come before.  However Regan gives them his all and his recording of "Defying Gravity" has to be one of the first recorded by a male.  The arrangement of that song sounds so full and almost on par with what you'd hear on Broadway.  The percussion and trumpet touches are really nice, so a big shout out to Fryman on his arrangement for this song.  The recording ends with Wicked's "For Good" and it is a nice way to end the cd as Regan perfectly captures the meaning behind the lyrics of learning and growing from the people you've known along your journey.


Regan is performing the cabaret version of his show, “Give My Regards to Broadway” at Davenport’s Piano Bar and Cabaret in Chicago, this weekend, Sat., Sept. 24th at 8 pm and Sun., Sept. 25th at 7 pm and Feinstein’s at the Loews Regency in New York City, Sun., Oct. 2nd, 8:30pm.  Check his website below for information on getting tickets to those shows as well as information on his other upcoming concerts.

Dean's official website

Interview with Dean about the cd -

Dean's concert promo video -

Thursday, September 15, 2011

theatre review TEN CENTS A DANCE, McCarter Theatre, Sept.11

Musical revues aren't usually my cup of tea.  I need a story or at least some type of theme to keep me entertained.  And while I enjoyed previous revues like Ain't Misbehaven' and Smokey Joe's Cafe, to me they are simply a couple of hours of musical fluff, hardly filling and sometimes in the case of other ill conceived revues like The Look of Love, they are barely filling at all.

So I went into the new revue of Richards Rodgers and Lorenz Hart songs, Ten Cents a Dance, with reservations.  This production was previously staged at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in August and is enjoying a month long run at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton.  While the "story" of this show is somewhat bare bones, and could be interpreted in various ways, it is one that makes you think and one that I'm still thinking about several days later. So, while i did enjoy it, I think it still needs some additional work to give it slightly more focus before moving on to future productions.

Malcom Gets and the five "Miss Jones' "
The director of this piece, John Doyle, is best known for his Broadway revival productions of Sweeney Todd and Company, both of which used their casts also as the shows' orchestra.  Having actors also play instruments can be a gimmick that wears old very fast but Doyle effectively incorporated the actor's use of the instruments seamlessly into both of those shows and won a Tony for Best Director for his work on Sweeney Todd.   Having the cast also play instruments in this production actually works even better than those two previous works mainly because since the show is a revue, it's pretty much non stop music.

Ten Cents a Dance has a cast of six people, one man and five women.  When the show begins, the man (Malcolm Gets) slowly descends into the room down a spiral staircase.  The room below is somewhat dark but has various smaller spaces all around the back that are all filed with musical instruments with a grand piano in the center of the room.  The man almost doesn't want to approach the piano at first, as if he is afraid of what will happen if he begins to play.  But when he does sit down and plays, you know he's been here before and that what unfolds has happened before, maybe even many times, but he is still afraid of what is going to happen once his fingers hit the piano keys.

Donna McKechnie, Diana DiMarzio, Jessica Tyler Wright,
Jane Pfitsch and Lauren Molina
As he begins to play the Rodgers and Hart classic "Blue Moon," a procession of five women slowly descend the staircase.  The women are various ages, from around 20 to 60 and all wear slightly different versions of the same dress and a slightly different version of the same hairstyle.  They obviously only appear because he started to play, and I assumed they represented one woman at various stages in her life.  If he stops playing, they stop moving.  Over the next 80 minutes they will harmonize, play a multitude of instruments and take us through the various stages of a relationship, or should I say the relationship that they as the one woman had with the man.  We don't know what happened or how the relationship ended, or if in fact the woman died and left the man a widow, or even if they are both dead.  But what I took away was that the man is still alive and when he plays the piano he imagines the woman from his past that he can't forget coming to life and playing out what happened in their days together through the music they shared.  It isn't something he completely enjoys reliving, but something it seems he must do.   As I mentioned above, it isn't exactly clear, and I don't even know if my interpretation is what Doyle is thinking, but for me it ultimately is a haunting musical.  In many ways it reminded me of Follies, which we just saw last week, and the visions of younger ghosts and memories of the past are prominent in both shows.

Molina and McKechnie
Now Rodgers and Hart wrote some of the most romantic songs from the 30's and 40's from such shows as Pal Joey, Babes in Arms and On Your Toes and many of them are heard in this production.  Almost every song in this production is about romance, and while overall they combine to make an effective show, the continued use of some of the more heavier ballads become a little monotonous after awhile.  Classic tunes like "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," "My Funny Valentine," Isn't It Romantic," "Manhattan," "The Lady is a Tramp," "Falling In Love With Love," " This Can't Be Love"  and "I Wish I Were in Love Again" are all heard, some in complete versions, some shortened ones or combined with other songs.  "Have You Met Miss Jones" is effectively used to introduce the five Miss Jones' that the five women play.  Every time the lyrics "Miss Jones" appears in the song our five women sing those words in unison.

The cast is more than capable of not only singing the material but playing various instruments.  While Gets mainly only plays the piano, his playing is rapturous and emotional.  And, like the rest of the cast, he so encompasses his character that you completely feel for him and for whatever happened to him and Miss Jones  The five women while given somewhat less to do then Gets, also pour everything they have into their parts.  Donna McKechnie is the star here, having won a Tony award for her performance in the original cast of A Chorus Line.  She is the eldest of the five "Miss Jones" and Doyle often has her close to whichever woman is singing a solo, and many times McKechnie mouths the words to the song the other woman is singing, to show that she remembers that moment in her life.  It is a very effective directorial choice.  The rest of the women, while being better musicians than McKenchie, are still very good singers.  Lauren Molina as the youngest of the Miss Jones' perfectly captures the youth and joy of love while Diana DiMarzio, Jessica Tyler Wright and Jane Pfitsch  as the middle Miss Jones' show more raw emotions around the pain of love.  McKechnie seems more resolved and even joyous, not only at seeing and singing with Gets but also at looking at her younger selves and so it seems she has gotten over and accepted whatever happened between her and Gets. 

The set is pretty amazing
Now there are a few things that I think need to be clarified before this moves on.  There is practically no dialogue in the piece, and I think adding just a few lines to give us a better sense of the story would be effective.  Dialogue might also help better connect the show with the audience.  There are also many moments of silence with Gets staring broodingly at the piano, or even at the women, that come across as somewhat melodramatic.  And I'm not sure why he disrobes a few times in the show, first taking off his coat, then his vest, then his shirt.  It seems like he is either frustrated, disappointed or just hot, but these moments do nothing but put a puzzled look on the audience's faces.

Still, Ten Cents a Dance is a haunting musical, with lush arrangements, an extremely talented cast and superb direction by Doyle. So, even with it's couple of shortcomings, I'd recommend it for the slightly more adventurous theatre goers out there. The show is playing though October 9th.

McCarter Theatre Site

Behind the scenes with the cast before the Williamstown production:

Friday, September 9, 2011

theatre review FOLLIES, Broadway, Sept. 7

The new Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman's Follies is the first musical of the 2011-2012 season and it opens next Monday.  We caught one of the final previews of the show Wednesday night.   This show recently celebrated it's 40th anniversary (read my story on that here) and while this musical and this revival may not be perfect on all counts, it is most likely one of the best productions and one of the best casts that we will ever get for this show.  This production played the Kennedy Center in D.C. this past Spring, and with a few cast changes after that run, is now on Broadway.

Lead by a first rate cast, with almost spot on direction by Eric Schaeffer, the musical is set in 1971 at a 30th reunion of "follies" girls at the crumbling down theatre where they performed their show which is about to be torn down to make way for a parking lot.  Our four main characters are two couples, who find their marriages crumbling and their lives on the brink of being torn apart as well.  They are all unhappy in their marriages, with Sally still in love with Ben, the husband of her follies roommate Phyllis.  This is a show that makes you seriously think about "the road you didn't take."  We all have made choices throughout our lives and who knows what our lives would be like today if we had taken a different path?  Follies is a musical that must be viewed and perceived differently depending on the age of the audience member, as anyone under 30 who hasn't lived and thought of some of the same questions that our main characters ask wouldn't clearly understand the point of the story.   The fact that there are "ghosts" present in the theatre of the main character's younger selves from 30 years ago only adds an emotional resonance to those choices.  The ghosts of our two couples conjure up memories of the past to our four leads, some which they clearly wish they could forget, or wish they had made different choices so their lives didn't take the road they took.

Ron Raines and Bernadette Peters with their "younger
selves" Lora Lee Gayer and Nick Verina

This is the third production of the show I've seen.  The 1998 production at Paper Mill Playhouse was all glitz and glamour and the 2001 Broadway revival was more minimalistic, where as this production gets almost everything right.  Though I don't know if it only feels that way to me since I am 10 or 13 years older then when I saw those productions so the dialogue and situations connect more with me now.  Or is it just the fact that the four actors in this production are so perfect in their acting abilities that it no longer seems like a long evening with bitter, fighting couples?

Danny Burstein
The beauty of Sondheim's score for this musical is that it perfectly combines character driven songs with more performance type numbers.  The songs play off of the dual meaning of the title of the show, as not only does it refer to the show the girls performed in, but also the foolishness that our two couples exhibit.  In the middle of act two, when the ghosts in the show start to be able to be seen by the main couples, and our two couples and their younger selves start to argue, the show dissolves into a dream "follies" with lavish production numbers where our characters act out and display their own personal "folly."  While some may choose to live in the past or reimagine how past events actually happened, one can't change the present so they must face reality, something that our main characters struggle to do.  However, after the emotional impact of the last 20 minutes of the show, our characters might still struggle with their own personal decisions, but they are all in a somewhat better place then they were before.  Though the ending is in no way uplifting, it isn't a downer as well.

Jan Maxwell
Bernadette Peters is Sally, and she perfectly inhabits her character.  I've seen Peters in several shows before, but never have I seen her play someone so "small" and unsure of herself.  Sally's husband Buddy has accused her of being either drunk or crazy, and Peters portrayal is a cross between the two.  She also looks fantastic.  Danny Burstein is Buddy and it is nice seeing him play a lead character instead of the supporting ones he's played in the past (and received two Tony nominations for.)  Buddy is a tough character to play, as he loves Sally but knows she is still in love with Ben.  Burstein pulls this off, and the smart direction from Schaeffer give Burstein plenty of dramatic and comic moments to show what he's capable of.

Peters singing "Losing My Mind"

Jan Maxwell is Phyllis and like Burstein, she has played plenty of supporting roles and has four Tony nominations for them.  She is witty, sexy and like Peters, looks and acts impeccably. Ron Raines is Phyllis' husband Ben.  With his slight stubble and somewhat disheveled appearance, he doesn't exactly have the look of past Ben's, who were more in the tradition of a wealthy businessman or politician.  However, he has the best voice of our four leads and Sondheim has given him several beautiful songs to show it off.  "The Road You Didn't Take" has always been one of my favorite songs from this show (and this show doesn't have one bad song) and hearing Raines sing, with his clear diction and forceful delivery, is not only stunning but also really hits home the meaning of the song.

Elaine Paige singing "I'm Still Here"
While Peter's voice is a little rougher now, her rendition of "Losing My Mind" is stunning.  During this song, Sally finally understands the truth about her life and that Ben doesn't love her, even though she has been holding on for 30 years that he does truly love her.  The beauty of Peters' delivery of this song comes from the fact that she remains completely still throughout, with the lyrics seemingly trapped inside of her with pauses between them and only being said once she truly understands them. Even so, they still  come out slow as if Sally is somewhat afraid to say them, as if she does, then she will know it is true.  The result is of a woman who finally realizes that she truly has lost her mind, thinking that a man loved her for so long, when he never did.  It was a revelation to me and more than makes up for her slightly by the numbers and lo key solo of "In Buddy's Eyes" in act one.

Terri White and the Follies ladies
The supporting cast has several ladies who all get a solo song and some witty dialogue to speak.  Elaine Paige gets the highest billing of these actresses, mainly because her character has a little more to do than the others and she gets to sing the Sondheim classic "I'm Still Here."   Paige is a huge star in the UK, having originated the parts of Eva in Evita and Grizabella in Cats in the West End, but she hasn't quite found success in the US, so it is nice to see her in this featured part.  She delivers on her solo song as well as on her portrayal of her character and she also has a lot of fun when she joins in on the shows one big female dance number with her other cast mates.  That song, "Who's That Woman" is led by Terri White, and White is a firecracker.  She not only has a huge voice but jumps right into the tap dancing required for this song.  Like Paige, White and the other ladies have a blast with this song, and the choreography by Warren Carlyle perfectly combines the actresses with the ghosts of their younger selves into this number.  If anyone in the audience didn't realize what all of these younger people were doing wandering around the stage before, this number should make them clearly understand the point of them being there.

Houdyshell and Peil
 Jayne Houdyshell gets to sing another gem from this show "Broadway Baby" and boy does she deliver.  Disheveled is an understatement to describe her appearance, but she definitely stands out from the crowd and like every other person in this cast is clearly having a blast.  Mary Beth Peil, probably best known to audiences today from her role as the mother in law on tv's The Good Wife, looks nothing like that character in this show with her long flowing hair and her skin tight, sexy costumes.  Her performance of "Ah Paris" is all style over substance and she completely pulls it off.  Rosalind Elias, who has had an over 50 year career singing in major opera houses around the world, is making her Broadway debut in this show as "Heidi."  She drifts out in act two, as if on a cloud and delivers her song "One Last Kiss" with such a force that you have to stand up and listen, when her younger self joins in, you see how her voice has aged, and the emotional connection between the two when the older "Heidi" appears to see her younger self singing the song with her packs a wallop.

Rosalind Elias and Leah Horowitz - "One Last Kiss"
 A little issue I have with this production has to do with the set and how it is used for the more dramatic scenes.   The set perfectly evokes the stage of a expansive theatre that's best days are in the past, but when the party goers disappear in order for a scene with two of our main characters to play out, you get no sense that they are in a more private area of the theatre, it seems they are still on the stage of this huge theatre. In past productions scrims or small set pieces have been used to give you the feeling that they are backstage or off in a private corner, not sure why they didn't try to do something similar for this production.  Instead it is as if everyone at the party ran outside for a smoke as they knew someone needed to have a private conversation on the stage of the theatre.  Fortunately the lighting and costumes are in peak condition.

the "younger" versions of our two couples - Kirsten Scott,
Nick Verina, Lora Lee Gayer and Christian Delcroix
While this show and production is a magical and truly enjoyable evening, there are still some problems with the book and how some of the songs, as great as they are, seem a bit shoe horned into it, but this cast really delivers. As I said above, this is probably the best cast we'll ever get for this show, as it isn't made up only of "stars" like other productions were, but has actors who can really act the book and deliver on the songs.  A recording is being made of this production and it will be a 2 cd set and include all of the music from the show, unlike the Original Broadway Cast album which featured truncated versions of many of the songs in order to fit on one lp.  This production is currently advertised as a limited run, playing through December 30th.

Official Show Site

Amazon link for the new cast recording -

Highlights from the 2011 Broadway revival -