Friday, December 20, 2013

theatre review ALL NEW PEOPLE, Stray Cat Theatre, December 12

Angelica Howland, Michael Peck, Kim Richard, Joseph Kremer
Click here for my review of Zach Braff's play All New People, running through December 22nd in Tempe at the Stray Cat Theatre.

"The Stray Cat Theatre is presenting the Arizona premiere of Zach Braff's first play All New People. Braff, star of the television show "Scrubs" and the award winning filmmaker of Garden State, has crafted a well written comedy with characters that are well formed and an ending that pays off. The Stray Cat Theatre production has a pretty good cast who easily handles the comic, dramatic and more absurd moments of the play, with nice pacing and direction from Stray Cat's Associate Artistic Director Louis Farber."

Stray Cat Theatre Website

Photo: John Groseclose

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

theatre review EVITA- National Tour - ASU/Gammage - Dec. 3

Caroline Bowman and Josh Young
My Talkin' Broadway review of the national tour of Evita can be found by clicking here.  With a great performance by Josh Young as "Che" this is a tour not to be missed.

"The current national tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's musical Evita has come to ASU/Gammage for a week long run. While this is a fairly well-known musical of a real life woman's rise to power and fame, and the show won the 1980 Tony Award for Best Musical, the score really only has one hit song, "Don't Cry For Me Argentina." However, the touring production is energetic and beautifully designed with a fantastic cast, good direction, stunning choreography and superb orchestrations." 

The tour concluded it's run at ASU/Gammage already but you can find where the tour will go next at this link - Evita National Tour.


theatre review A CHRISTMAS CAROL - Southwest Shakespeare Company, Nov. 30

Jared Sakren as Scrooge
Click here to read my Talkin' Broadway review of the Southwest Shakespeare Company's production of A Christmas Carol.  Running through December 21st, it is one of the best adaptations of this classic tale that I've seen.

"There are probably more theatrical adaptations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol produced across the country every December than any other play or musical the entire year. The classic Christmas story of Scrooge as he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future never gets old. The production that the Southwest Shakespeare Company is presenting through December 21st is a beautiful throwback to a more traditional storytelling type of play without any over-elaborate theatricality to get in the way of this timeless tale of redemption."

Southwest Shakespeare Company's Official Website

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

theatre review THE SOUND OF MUSIC, Arizona Broadway Theatre, Nov 24

Trisha Hart Ditsworth and John Dooley
Click here to read my entire review at Talkin' Broadway of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic musical The Sound of Music at the Arizona Broadway Theatre.

"Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music is suddenly something that everyone seems to be talking about, with the upcoming "live" broadcast of the show on NBC this week starring Carrie Underwood generating a lot of buzz. The production at the Arizona Broadway Theatre may not star a Grammy winning singer but it is a joyous, emotional production with a wonderful cast, colorful sets and costumes and a "live" experience that you just can't get sitting in your living room watching TV."

This most popular of the Rodgers and Hammerstein shows runs through December 29th.

Arizona Broadway Theatre's Official Site

photo courtesy of the Arizona Broadway Theatre


theatre review WHITE CHRISTMAS, Phoenix Theatre, Nov 23

Molly Lajoie, Peter Marinaro,
Debby Rosenthal and Joseph Cannon
My complete review at Talkin' Broadway of the Christmas musical classic White Christmas can be found by clicking here.

"The Phoenix Theatre production of Irving Berlin's White Christmas is a joyous addition to the holiday season. Based on the classic 1954 film, this White Christmas has had holiday season runs on Broadway as well as numerous productions across the country. With wonderful Irving Berlin songs, a fun "let's put on a show" plot, and an engaging and extremely talented cast, the Phoenix Theatre production is top notch."

This upbeat musical runs through December 24th.

Phoenix Theatre's Official Site

photo courtesy of Phoenix Theatre

theatre review FIFTY SHADES OF FELT, Nearly Naked Theatre, Nov 22

Click here to read my entire review at Talkin' Broadway of the Fifty Shades of Grey All-Puppet spoof Fifty Shades of Felt.  It's been extended through December 7th due to demand.

"I'm happy to admit that I have yet to read any of the books in the "Fifty Shades of Grey" series. I'm also happy to report that the all-puppet theatrical parody of the series, Fifty Shades of Felt, a co-production of Nearly Naked Theatre and All Puppet Players, is a hysterical, raunchy and extremely fun night out at the theatre."

Nearly Naked Theatre Company's Official Site

Sunday, November 24, 2013

theatre review THE MOUNTAINTOP, Arizona Theatre Company, November 21

Erika LaVonn and James T. Alfred
Here is my review at Talkin' Broadway of The Mountaintop at the Arizona Theatre Company.

"The Arizona Theatre Company is presenting the Arizona premiere of Katori Hall's The Mountaintop. The fictionalized play that represents Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last night before he is assassinated is a two-character piece that isn't at all what it first appears to be. This Arizona Theatre Company / Penumbra Theatre Company co-production is well cast and directed, and the play takes the audience on quite a journey."

The Mountaintop, a co-production of Arizona Theatre Company and Penumbra Theatre Company, through December 1st at the Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe Street. Tickets can be purchased at www.arizonatheatre.org or by calling (602) 256–6995. This production then moves to the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, North Caroline from February 4th to March 2, 2014, and then the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, Minneapolis, from March 28th through April 20, 2014.

Photo: Tim Fuller/Arizona Theatre Company

Saturday, November 23, 2013

theatre review THE MUSIC MAN, Scottsdale Musical Theatre Company, Nov 17

Matt Newhard, Lindsay Urbank and Cast
My review of the Scottsdale Musical Theatre Company's production of The Music Man at Talkin' Broadway can be found by clicking here.

"Community theatre productions of well-known musicals tend to be hit or miss. While the material and songs are well known by audience members, the cast and physical production elements generally lean toward the substandard. Often, cast members, especially the ensemble, aren't much more than window dressing, not knowing how to properly act in the background of scenes, and the sets, costumes and lighting can be minimal and unimaginative. So I'm happy to report that the Scottsdale Musical Theatre Company's recent production of The Music Man got just about everything right with winning leads, a fun ensemble, and a minimal yet effective design."

Scottsdale Musical Theatre Company's official site





theatre review A STEADY RAIN, Actors Theatre, Oct. 26

Christopher Haines and Joseph Kremer
Here is a link to my review of A Steady Rain at the Actors Theatre in Phoenix.

"Keith Huff's A Steady Rain was a sellout hit on Broadway back in 2009. While that was likely due to the fact that Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig were the two stars of the production, A Steady Rain is a powerful, gripping drama that only needs two good actors to portray the dark tale of cops caught up in a nightmare of events and emotions. Fortunately, the production running at the Actors Theatre of Phoenix through November 10th has two skilled actors, good direction, and is not to be missed for those seeking a fiercely dramatic play that is both provocative and even somewhat inspiring."

Actors Theatre official site

Photo: John Grossclose






theatre review THE LION KING, ASU/Gammage, October 24

Brown Lindiwe Mkhize
Click here for my review of the national tour of The Lion King at Talkin' Broadway.

"Julie Taymor's production of The Lion King created a sensation when it opened on Broadway 16 years ago in November 1997. Based on the 1994 Oscar-winning film, Taymor added puppetry and theatrical magic to this coming of age story of a lion cub and it went on to win six Tony Awards and is still running on Broadway today. The national touring production that just opened at ASU Gammage and runs through November 17th is thrilling and also a good family theatrical experience."

ASU Gammage Official Site

The Lion King National Tour Official Site

Photo: Joan Marcus




theatre review THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA - Southwest Shakespeare Theatre Company, Oct. 13

Ian Christiansen, Bre Jarvis and Marshall Glass
Here is a link to my review at Talkin' Broadway of The Two Gentlemen of Verona at the Southwest Shakespeare Theatre.  It was an interesting production, with some nice additional musical moments, but overall Shakespeare's first play isn't that interesting.

"William Shakespeare's earliest play, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, doesn't quite have the same lyrical language and in-depth character analysis that his better regarded plays do. While there are plenty of plot developments and foreshadowing of what Shakespeare would create with his later works, at its core, Verona is a simple play, with simple characters and language. The Southwest Shakespeare Company production has updated the story to the Roaring '20s of Chicago and added in a nice amount of music and even a little dancing, including a fun "Charleston", but in end very little can be done to make it more than simply Shakespeare's first comedy which also happens to be one of his less accomplished ones."

Southwest Shakespeare Company's official site

photo: Mark Gluckman

Monday, October 28, 2013

theatre review THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, Arizona Theatre Company, October 12

Matt Leisy and Loren Dunn
Click here for my review at Talkin' Broadway.com of the Arizona Theatre Company's revival of The Importance of Being Earnest

Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest is receiving a stellar production from the Arizona Theatre Company. Wilde's satirical play pokes fun at English social customs in the late 1890s and does so with a combination of elegance, style, and an abundance of comical bon mots. The witty nature of the play is perfectly matched with Arizona Theatre Company's witty cast and design.

Wilde uses an inscribed name in a cigarette case to get his plot rolling. When Algernon confronts his friend Ernest over the name "Jack" inscribed in the cigarette case Ernest left behind at Algernon's home, we discover that, while both of these men have fairly respectable home lives, they have created alternate identities as well. Ernest has created a younger brother "John," nicknamed "Jack," and Algernon has created a constantly sick friend named "Bunbury." The creation of these alternate identities allows the two men to avoid any unwanted social obligations by easily saying they have to go deal with their friend/brother. And it also allows them to get into a bit of debauchery as well when they are away from home under these other identities.

Now Jack/Ernest is in love with Algernon's cousin Gwendolen and he is prepared to kill off his imaginary brother and settle down with her. However, the forceful Lady Bracknell, Algernon's aunt, is the one person who can decide who her daughter Gwendolen will marry, and Ernest's lack of a proper background, due to his being left as an infant in a handbag at Victoria Station, forces Lady Bracknell to disavow the engagement unless Ernest can find out who his real parents are. As Lady Bracknell puts it, "You can hardly imagine that I and Lord Bracknell would dream of allowing our only daughter, a girl brought up with the utmost care, to marry into a cloak-room, and form an alliance with a parcel?"

Lady Bracknell holds respectability, adherence to the correct form, and proper upbringing in the highest regard and she clearly believes that one must only do what is socially acceptable. Of course, if you have the right combination of a large sum of money and the proper upbringing, then that trumps everything. And, while Jack is prepared to reveal who he truly is to Gwendolen, she makes it clear to him that she could only love someone named Ernest, as the name Jack just is too plain. When Jack let's Algernon know that the cigarette case was a gift from his young ward Cecily, Algernon's interest is piqued and he makes it his mission to meet her. But he can't meet her as himself, so why not pretend to be "Ernest" himself?

Assumed and mistaken identities, English social rules, and the witty language of Wilde all come together to show us what truly is the importance of being "earnest" in Wilde's most popular play. The playwright's ability to drive the plot with the use of confusion and tension framed around assumed identities and whether or not someone will allow another person to get married only adds to the satirical nature of the plot. Adding to this is the silly yet romantic notion that a woman could be in love with a man only if he has a specific name.

The cast for this production, with just one slight caveat, is superb. Matt Leisy as Algernon and Loren Dunn as Jack both embody their roles to such extremes that they seem to easily become these parts effortlessly. Dunn is the perfect image of respectability, but when Algernon or Lady Bracknell threaten to undo his plans he becomes frustrated, and Dunn's ability to easily play both the level-headed and hot-headed sides of Jack are well in tune with the character. Likewise, Leisy perfectly plays all facets of Algernon—he is witty, charming and clever yet extremely self-centered. His whimsical mannerisms and body language align with the character and add an entire additional layer as well to an already rich character portrayal. Leisy is simply perfect.

Allyce Beasley is Lady Bracknell and, while I admire her straightforward take on the delivery of the more humorous lines, she is much too stern in the first act, which detracts somewhat from the humor the character brings to the play. Bracknell is supposed to be overbearing and somewhat of a buffoon, where her almost unrealistic actions and behavior are comical, but she is taking a more serious route. Beasley's actions in fact don't always make us laugh at Bracknell's behavior, which I believe was Wilde's goal, but instead make us only slightly amused. Fortunately she seems to be playing it a little lighter in the second act which doesn't make her stick out so much from the rest of the cast and allows the laughs to more easily flow.

Anneliese van der Pol and Heather Marie Cox as Gwendolen and Cecily match their romantic counterparts with equal amounts of frenzy and emotion. In almost every other production of this play I've seen, both Gwendolen and Cecily take a back seat to the other three lead characters but van der Pool and Cox are equals in all aspects. Van der Pol is giving an incredible performance as Gwendolen, and does an excellent job in showing both her idealistic and pretentious character traits. In fact I don't think I've ever seen a better Gwendolen in the four productions I've seen of this play. Cox does a very nice job in showing Cecily's immature and artistic sides but also has no problem in relishing in the fantasy elements of her life that she has created. Cox is just lovely as Cecily.
Director Stephen Wrentmore has found the perfect balance and pace for the play, allowing the comical moments to really shine through but also leaving plenty of room for a nice bit of romance. With the exception of Beasley in act one, he has also directed his cast to superb heights of frenzy throughout. I especially like how he doesn't have Jack and Algernon be too similar in style, almost as if they were twins, as some of the productions of the play I've seen have attempted to do. Jack and Algernon may be similar but they are far from being identical.

Sets and costumes by Yoon Bae are as superb as the casting with a lovely emphasis on the style of the peacock incorporated into both. Bae's monochromatic act one sets and costumes explode into color in the second act and I thoroughly enjoyed how she has Algernon's suit not only match the act one set of his house but his act two suit is a perfect colorful complement to his previous black and white suit. Likewise, the dresses for the ladies are not only lovely but Bracknell's act two costume has one of the funniest capes you'll ever see. Bae has also concocted a simple, yet extremely creative, set transformation between the acts.

Arizona Theatre Company's production of The Importance of Being Earnest is a sublime, infectious and simply lovely comical gem.

The Importance of Being Earnest at Arizona Theatre Company runs through October 27th at the Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe Street. Tickets can be purchased athttp://www.arizonatheatre.org/ or by calling (602) 256 - 6995

Photo: Tim Fuller/Arizona Theatre Company

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

theatre review HAIRSPRAY- Arizona Broadway Theatre, October 11

Victoria Lynn Socci
Click here for my review of the Arizona Broadway Theatre's production of Hairspray at Talkin' Broadway.com  -

Hairspray may just be the best musical comedy to have opened on Broadway in the last fifteen years. With an infectious score, a very accessible and hilarious book, characters you can easily identify with, and a social message at the center that is still relevant today, it pretty much hits all the right marks. Sure, there have been much bigger musical comedy hits in the past decade like The Producers and Book of Mormon, but unlikeMormon and to a lesser extent The Producers,Hairspray is a show that you can easily take your grandparents to without them being offended. The original Broadway production of Hairspray won eight Tony awards including Best Musical as well as one for Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's toe tapping, rhythm & blues and pop inspired score. The production that just opened the 2013-2014 season at Arizona Broadway Theatre has a great cast, good direction and is a perfect kick off to ABT's 9th season.

Based on the 1988 John Waters movie of the same name, Hairspray is set in 1962 Baltimore at a time when racial integration was at a crossroads, afternoon TV dance shows were a must see for any cool kid, and music was changing from soft pop to rock and rhythm & blues. Tracy Turnblad is a teenager who dreams of dancing on the local teenage dance show "The Corny Collins Show" and falling in love with the show's heartthrob Link Larkin. The fact that Tracy is on the hefty side and everyone else on the show resembles Ken and Barbie doesn't detract Tracy from going after her dreams when a spot on the show opens up. And even though her even heftier mother Edna tries to make Tracy realize that she might get laughed at and ridiculed for her weight, Tracy finds her way onto the program, becomes an overnight celebrity and spokesperson, and, more importantly, makes it her mission to integrate the program. This is something at odds with Velma, the racist producer of the show, and her daughter Amber who just happens to be Link's girlfriend. Hairspray is not only a great musical but a touching social commentary on race, anti-bullying, and how, as the musical states a couple of times, you've got to "think big to be big."

The production at Arizona Broadway Theatre is colorful, well cast and joyous from start to finish. ABT Resident Choreographer Kurtis W. Overby directs this production and has assembled a terrific cast that includes Victoria Lynn Socci as Tracy and Richard Koons-Wagoner as Edna. The idea of a man playing the part of Tracy's mother Edna goes back to the original 1988 film in which John Waters staple Divine played the part. Both Socci and Koons-Wagoner are more than up to the challenge to not only completely embody these roles but also to, in very short time, make you forget both Ricki Lake and Divine who played the mother/daughter duo in the film and Tony winners Marissa Jaret Winokur and Harvey Fierstein who originated the parts in the 2002 Broadway production.

While Socci is slimmer than any of the actresses I've seen play this role before, she still manages to make Tracy the outsider, one that any of us who has ever felt like an outsider can easily identify with. Her singing, dancing and especially her acting are top notch. She throws herself into the part, and her dance moves alone made me chuckle several times. Koons-Wagoner is hilarious as Edna. His acting and singing chops are perfect for the part; he's probably the best sung Edna of the five I've seen, and he and Socci are quite touching as this mother/daughter duo with a mission.

Deidra Grace, Emmeline Wood, Richard Koons-Wagoner and Vanessa Dunleavy



















The ensemble cast hits all the right marks as well with every one of the actors not only good musically but excellent actors as well. Sal Pavia is perfect as Link, his singing and dancing all in line with the heartthrob nature of the character. Wade Moran is touching, quirky and loving as Tracy's nerdy father Wilbur. Moran and Koons-Wagoner also make a great yet extremely mismatched husband and wife with the beanpole Moran a mere shadow of his onstage wife.

Tracy's best friend Penny is hilariously played by Trisha Hart Ditsworth, and Tracy's rivals Amber and her mother Velma couldn't be better cast than they are with Emmeline Wood and Vanessa Dunleavy. They both throw themselves into these villainous parts with glee. As Tracy's new friends Seaweed and his mother Motormouth Maybelle, the host of the one "Negro Day" a month that the "Corny Collins Show" airs, it doesn't get much better than Antonio Tillman and Deidra Grace. Tillman's dancing is amazing and Grace's vocal abilities are superb as is her acting. Her rousing, showstopper act two song "I Know Where I've Been" brought the house down. One caveat—Motormouth speaks in rhymes and Grace could work just a bit on the cadence of her delivery to make the rhymes really pop.

Ryan Michael Crimmins makes a perfect Corny Collins, who is serious enough in not being afraid to stand up to Velma but also comical enough to deliver some of the book's "cornier" jokes. A special mention needs to be made of both Lynzee Jaye Paul 4Man and Sam Ramirez who play multiple parts in the show, each one a hilarious gem. Cassandra Klaphake has done a really great job in casting the entire production.

Director Overby and Shelley Jenkins provide a neverending amount of dancing for this production, all wonderfully in tune with the period of the show. I also really like how effectively the ensemble is used not only throughout the various musical, comical and dramatic moments of the show but during the various scene changes as well. Set designer Paul Black and costume designer Morgan Andersen have both contributed A-level design elements with some lovely Technicolor themed drops and sets and a neverending parade of colorful costumes. Tracy, Edna and Penny's act two finale costumes are especially inspired.

While director and co-choreographer Overby is to be commended on what he's been able to accomplish with this production there are a few jokes in Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan's Tony winning book that fall flat due to them being over-rushed or not delivered correctly. Overby should give a few notes to his cast members about that, as every joke in this book is a winner. A few other minor quibbles—there were some technical glitches at the opening night performance including some microphone, sound and lighting mishaps as well as more than a few times when a some of the ensemble members weren't in synch on the choreography. I attribute this to the vast amount of choreography in the show and, again, it being opening night. I can only imagine with a few performances under their belts the ensemble will be more solidified.

Still, even with just those few small negative points, ABT's production of Hairspray isn't to be missed.

Hairspray runs through November 10th at the Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 West Paradise Lane, Peoria. Tickets can be ordered at http://azbroadway.org or by calling (623) 776-8400

Photos: Arizona Broadway Theatre


Saturday, October 12, 2013

theatre review THE 39 STEPS- Phoenix Theatre, October 6

I'm now the Phoenix Theatre Critic for the national website Talkin' Broadway and my first review can be found by clicking on this link.

The 39 Steps is one of those plays that regional theatres have been scrambling to produce. With a minimal set and small cast, it is relatively inexpensive to produce. But when you have a sublime cast like the one currently on display at the Phoenix Theatre, mixed with superb direction, the end result vastly outweighs the simple bare bones nature of the show.

I am a huge fan of the films of Alfred Hitchcock and, since Hitchcock was known for his sense of humor, it is only natural that The 39 Steps, one of his earliest films, has been whipped into a comic theatrical soufflĂ©. The 1939 film was based on the novel by John Buchan and was such a successful film that it has been remade several times. While some of those remakes have stayed closer to the Buchan novel than Hitchcock did, the play stays close to his film, with a few references to other Hitchcock films as well. Written by Patrick Barlow, this play premiered in the UK in 2005 (where it still runs today) and a two-year Broadway run commenced in 2008, followed by an Off-Broadway run of almost one year. The UK production won the Olivier Award for Best Comedy.

Toby Yatso and Pasha Yamotahari 
The plot of the film, play and novel centers on a man falsely accused of a murder as he seeks to prove his innocence by fleeing across the English and Scottish countryside. This theme is one that Hitchcock revisited many times over his illustrious career, in such films as North by Northwest and Saboteur. It is also a theme that many other books, plays and movies have focused on, the innocent man accused who must prove his own innocence.

John Hannay is a single man who, during a night out at a music hall, finds himself taking home a frightened woman after shots are fired at the theatre. He later learns that not only is she a spy but she is the one who fired the shots. She claims she is being followed by assassins who know that she has uncovered a plot to smuggle British military secrets out of the country. The man overseeing this plot runs an espionage organization called "The 39 Steps."

The frightened woman spends the night at Hannay's flat, but the next morning he finds her stabbed and dying. Fortunately, she gives him a few details about how he can stop the secrets from getting out of the country. Hannay, on the run from the police who suspect him of the woman's murder, must stop the secrets from getting out as well as attempt to prove his innocence without getting killed by the assassins himself.

Now, while the details of the plot and all of the films based on the novel are as serious as possible, the stage version is played for laughs and one of the ways it achieves this is to have all of the parts played by a cast of only four people. And, since the character of John Hannay is on stage for almost the entire time, the three other actors must play all of the other 100-plus characters in the show. The cast is so good at becoming multiple characters that there were times when I believed there must be other actors waiting in the wings when all four actors were already on stage.

Michael Kary plays Hannay with the perfect touch of a proper English gentlemen (by way of Canada, no less). Kary has the right balance of manners, charm and good looks to easily carry off the leading man part. And while he doesn't get as much chance to dive into the slapstick nature of the show as his co-stars do, he still manages to provide some laughs simply with his facial gestures. Kary's English accent is also superb.

Angelica Howland has only three parts to play, those of the three women Hannay comes in contact with, but she so brilliantly plays each one, it is difficult to accept that it is the same actress. The accents alone, especially the one she uses for Annabella Schmidt, the German woman whom Hannay is accused of killing, are not only legitimate accents but hilarious ones as well. Like Kary, Howland's facial gestures and even just a simple glance not only provide an additional layer of humor but also add the necessary romantic tone to the play. I credit director Matthew Weiner with the nice shadings of romance amongst the jokes.

All of the other parts are played by Toby Yatso and Pasha Yamotahari and they are both amazing in their ability to play so many different roles, sometimes within seconds of each other. The use of various wigs, mustaches and hats, partnered with Yatso's and Yamotahari's rubber-like features and skills at accents, is a theatrical delight as well as pure insanity at many times. Add to this the fact that Yatso is about a foot taller than Yamotahari and you have a partnership made in comic heaven. Having seen this play with the original Broadway cast I have to say that Yatso and Yamotahari exceed the original two Broadway "clowns."

Wiener's direction not only strikes the right balance of comedy and romance but the required amount of suspense as well. Every chase scene and escape from the film, including some on trains and in cars, takes place on stage using a combination of theatrical magic and only a few set pieces. It is amazing how a few trunks and some lighting can come together with your imagination to portray a chase on top of a train. When done correctly, simple things can easily come together to provide theatrical magic. It reminded me a lot of the recent Broadway play Peter and the Starcatcher (coming to ASU/Gammage in January) which also uses a small cast to play many parts and minimal sets to portray various locations. Wiener is adept at making us believe in the magic of theatre through techniques like making a car out of a few set pieces. He also has a keen ability to direct this cast of four into a strong comedic team.

Robert Kovach has created a set design that evokes the backstage of a theatre, as if the cast we are seeing are "performing" this show within a show, and he also cleverly constructs the numerous settings out of just a few simple set pieces. Costume designer Connie Furr has come up with dozens of colorful costumes, hats and other wardrobe pieces to help us to easily identify the various characters in the play. Paul Black's lighting design provides the shadows and light of a suspense film.

In addition to references to other Hitchcock films, music from his films in included as well. The small bits of music work perfectly as a theatrical score for the action on the stage, both suspenseful and romantic. The play does get a little tired toward the end, and there are a few moments when the cast gets just a little too broad for my taste, but The 39 Steps is a homage to the master of suspense himself, and any fan of Hitchcock, suspense, comedy, spoof or theatrical imagination is bound to have a good time with the Phoenix Theater's production.

The 39 Steps is being performed at The Phoenix Theatre, 100 E. McDowell Rd. Phoenix. through October 20th. Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.phoenixtheatre.com/ or by calling (602) 254-2151.

Monday, July 29, 2013

theatre review BUYER & CELLAR, Off Broadway, July 1

The new one man play Buyer & Cellar by Jonathan Tolins takes a few sentences in a design book written by megastar Barbra Streisand and turns it into a humorous and touching 100 minutes of pure joy.   The play had a limited Off Broadway run last Spring before moving to a now open ended run at another Off Broadway theatre.

The book Streisand wrote is called My Passion for Design, which goes into elaborate detail about the making of her palatial Malibu home.  However, buried in the middle of the book is a small part where she mentions the "shopping mall" she has in the basement to house her numerous collection of various vintage clothes, antique dolls and other items.  Tolins used those few sentences as a springboard to fabricate the tale of struggling and out of work actor Alex More who ends up getting a job as the person who manages the series of "stores" that Streisand has built.  A series of stores that she is the only "shopper" at.


Michael Urie
At first More is unsure of what to do as he patiently cleans and organizes Streisand's vast personal collection of things waiting for Streisand to show up to look at her belongings.  When Streisand finally makes her way down into the basement, in character as if to test More, and after looking around for a few minutes, she comments "you have nice things."   The look that More gives her and the laughs that come from the audience make you realize that Tolins has found a perfect tale to portray the eccentricities of a celebrity but one that also shows her vulnerability as well. 

Tolins has written fully fleshed out characters of both More and Streisand that dive well below the superficial level of their shared interest of her "belongings" and into the past and present of each character.  His dialogue is direct and clear and concise, especially with what he has written for Streisand to say.  He is able to take the public knowledge of her and fashion an evening that is both funny and emotional in the connection that he shows Streisand having with the man who works in her basement mall.   That connection is fashioned by Tolins into a very touching and emotional one, one that, as Tolins writes it, you can easily imagine a big star like Streisand easily having with someone like More.  Of course, the character of Streisand is clearly in control, especially when she asks More to stay late one night as she is having guests over.  At first Alex things he is inviting her over to mingle with her celebrity friends, but she is only asking him to work late in case any of them want to come downstairs for frozen yogurt from the food court section of the mall.   Tolins has many plot points build throughout the play and there is also a nice bit about a throw pillow that has a nice built up toward the end.

Michael Urie is More but he also plays several other characters, including his boyfriend, Streisand's housekeeper and Streisand herself.  Every one of these characters gets their own personal voice, style and mannerisms and Urie is simply stunning in his ability to portray each of them uniquely which also seems so natural in the way that he easily navigates between them, especially in the numerous conversations they have with each other.

Urie's channeling of Streisand is more than just a simple impression or imitation.  And while he never fully takes on her voice or even makes any attempt to look like her, he manages a lot with just a simple facial expression, a pause between words or the pronunciation of a word.   In doing so, he actually embodies her and at the end of the evening you actually feel like she was there on stage and that you got to see a glimpse into the mind of this mega celebrity.

Director Stephen Brackett does an exceptional job in not only getting such an amazing performance out of Urie, but in also the ability to stage the entire play on a very small set with just a few set pieces but make it seem like the numerous locations of the play.  Scenic designer Andrew Boyce has fabricated a simple white set and lighting designer Eric Southern adds some creative projections and a lovely and colorful lighting plot to easily portray the various locals of the play.

Tolins' play is a touching yet rollicking good time with an amazing performance at the center.  While it may run about 5 or 10 minutes too long, with a few similar situations repeated to get the point across that really don't have to be, it it still effective.  It doesn't mock or ridicule Streisand, but instead paints her as an extremely wealthy, yet somewhat lonely person who just happens to have a lot of stuff that she wants to have on display to see.  If you think of all of the things you might own that are packed up in boxes in your basement, it does seem much more logical to have them on display, even if that means you have to build a mall in your basement like Streisand did.

Official Show Site

Theater Talk interview with Tolins and Urie:

Friday, July 19, 2013

theatre review PIPPIN, Broadway, June 27

The Broadway revival of Pippin has received numerous accolades including getting great reviews and winning four Tony's including the one for best musical revival.  While the book of the show still leads a little to be desired, the pop-rock score by Stephen Schwartz is wonderful, including several showstoppers and the direction from Diane Paulus expertly combines a circus theme with the story of a young man on a quest to find himself.  Originally conceived by composer Schwartz as a college musical, this is the first Broadway revival the production has had since the long running original production closed in June of 1977 after running for over four and a half years.

Patina Miller as The Leading Player
The story of the show focuses on a group of performers, overseen by a leading player who serves as the master of ceremonies, who tell the tale of naive young prince Pippin, who has returned home after getting his education.  His father, the King Charlemagne, has married a much younger wife Fastrada and her son Lewis has already taken his place in Charlemagne's army. Pippin, not sure how he can prove himself, believes that going to battle will do just that, and so begins the first of many quests for Pippin to find his way in life. Along his journey he finds art, religion, has lots of mindless sex that leaves him empty and unfulfilled, meets up with his grandmother who gives him some wise advice as well as encounters a young widow and her son.

Terrence Mann and Mathew James Thomas
In the middle of all of this, when the Leading Player suggests that perhaps Pippin try to go against the tyrant that his father has become, this forces Fastrada to concoct a plan that she believes will make her son the King.  But all plans don't exactly go the way as planned including when you have a group of performers enacting a story that if they happen to not like the way it is going may just decide to make changes to the plot themselves. This only frustrates the Leading Player who is trying to steer Pippin to a spectacular finale that is the ultimate sacrifice, something that Pippin is unsure he is prepared to do.

It is an interesting story about a young man on the search for his purpose in life, a life where living in a castle and being wealthy may not be what is best but instead a life of modesty and simple joys.  It is a simple and often told tale but director Paulus has enveloped it within a circus tent that explodes with acrobats, tumblers, trapeze artists, dancers and other magical moments that elevate this simple tale into one of mystery, suspense and pure enjoyment.

Andrea Martin and Matthew James Thomas
At the center of the show is Patina Miller as the Leading Player, a role usually played by a man and originated by Ben Vereen in the 1972 Broadway production.  Miller, like Vereen, won a Tony for her performance and she is stellar in the role.  Singing and dancing up a storm with both comical and serious sides to her character.  She is both sexual and sweet and also nice and yet intimidating and disturbing too.   Matthew James Thomas is Pippin.  He is tall and handsome yet somewhat nerdy and awkward as well.  He has a lovely singing voice and does a find job in taking us along on Pippin's journey of self discovery. 

Also in the cast are real life husband and wife Terrence Mann and Charlotte d'Amboise as Charlemagne and Fastrada.  Both are excellent in their supporting parts with Mann a forceful but fun King and d'Amboise perfect as the conniving second wife who dances up a storm.  Andrea Martin is Berthe, Pippin's grandmother who stops the show with her first act solo "No Time at All."   Martin won her well deserved second Tony for her performance.  Rachel Bay Jones is Catherine, the young widow that Pippin meets who makes him realize the possibilities of a simple life.  She is earthy and charming but also very funny and touching.  The ensemble is comprised of many members of the Montreal-based circus troupe Les 7 Doigts de la Main and each one is given a moment or two to shine as well as is incorporated effectively and seemlessly into the story.

Paulus' direction moves the show along at a quick clip but also allows the right amount of time for the circus choreography and acrobatics by Chet Walker and Gypsy Snider to perfectly interweave with the score and book by Roger O. Hirson.  The way the main cast is interwoven into some of the circus acts by Snider is also extremely dazzling and extra special as you feel that even these non circus performers have risen to almost the same level that the circus trained ones in the cast are at.  The original Broadway production was directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse and a few of Fosse's signature dances from that production are incorporated as well.  Scenic design by Scott Pask combines vibrant colors all set under a Big Top Tent that becomes even more magical at the very end of the show when it transforms into something else entirely.  Costume design by Dominique Lemieux perfectly combines the colorful circus theme with the required sensual and serious elements of the plot.

Is Pippin a perfect show?  No.  But it is one with many magical and memorable moments and when combined with Paulus' re-energizing of the material with her circus theme it elevates it into a joyful and dazzling experience of a story of self discovery that is truly not to be missed. 

Official Show Site


Highlights from this production:


2013 Tony performance:


"Simple Joys" performed on the David Letterman Show:

"On the Right Track" performed on The View:

"Magic to Do" music video with scenes from the recording of the cast album:


Cast rehearsal clips and interviews with the cast and creative team:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

cabaret review STEVEN ZUMBO, Don't Tell Mama's, June 21

Steven Zumbo's latest cabaret show is his best yet.  After having performed various shows at various cabaret clubs over the past fifteen plus years, Zumbo has definitely hit his stride in the last few years in the way he structures his shows.  You see, Steven is a naturally very funny guy, but a funny guy with a serious side too.  So, how do you find the right balance between the comedic and the serious to get across the person you are without making the show too much of a downer or too funny?  Well, Steven has figured out that balance and his current show perfectly gets across Steven's personality.

Entitled "Where the Hell Did I Put My Glasses?" Zumbo's show is his most themed one yet.  He often mentions how he eschews a theme, but he has actually come up with one - a show all about memory - that plays perfectly into his personality and the idea of getting older - something that almost everyone in the audience immediately identified with.   He has also come up with a winner of an opening number, a rewritten version of the hit song "Memory" from Cats that is all about memory loss.  With revised lyrics by Pam Peterson the song begins with "Midnight, I wake up and remember that I left the door open, with my groceries outside" and includes such other great lines like ,"Damn, what did I walk in this room for?"  and "Did I turn both burners off, or is my house on fire?"  The lyrics and Steven's delivery of them, ironically set against the well known music of "Memory" literally brought the house down. 

Steven's take on "The Kid Inside" from the Craig Carnelia musical Is There Life After High School? was another winner that allowed Steven to reflect back on the memories of our high school days we all remember, with a song that is reflective, touching and has a soaring end to it.  It is a song that begins somewhat quietly and then gets bigger and bigger as it goes on, and Steven was more than up to the challenge that the song required. 

For the past several years Zumbo has always included a "Broadway Backwards" moment in his shows where he sings a Broadway show tune that is usually performed by a woman.  His selection for this show couldn't have been better with the hilarious Stephen Sondheim/Jule Styne Gypsy song "You Gotta Get a Gimmick."  Performed in the musical by three female strippers, Steven used a few simple props to get across the three characters in the song and blew the roof off the cabaret room with his performance.  His stripper gyrations alone were worth the $15 cover charge.

Another highlight, and a nod to the Supreme Court's pending ruling on Same Sex Marriage was "Get Me to the Church on Time" from My Fair Lady where Zumbo and musical director Gerry Dieffenbach performed a rousing take on that crowd pleaser.  "Way Ahead of My Time" by Peter Mills starts with some serious chords and lyrics before turning into a true comic gem about being different from the other cavemen.  Steven's delivery was exceptional and included some added Fosse-like dance moves to make the song even more over the top then it already was.   But there were some ballads and quiet songs that Steven also expertly delivered including a lovely "The Way We Were," a heartfelt "It Was Me" and a bouncy "You Go to My Head."  An Encore of "Over the Rainbow" was simply stunning. 

With a winning personality, excellent song selections and short but well thought out patter, Zumbo is really at the height of his game.

Steven performs two more times this week- don't miss it!

Direction by Helen Baldassare, musical direction by Gerry Dieffenbach

Don't Tell Mama's website

theatre review NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT, Broadway, June 13

Having enjoyed the Gershwin musical Nice Work If You Can Get It when we saw it in previews last year, we decided to go back and see it again before it closed.  It not only gave us a chance to see Matthew Broderick in the male lead role again but also see Jessie Mueller who took over for Kelli O'Hara as the lead female role.

Mueller seems to be the Broadway "it" girl of the moment, having appeared in four high calibre New York productions in the last 18 months.  She co-starred with Harry Connick Jr in the 2011 Broadway revival of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever and received a Tony nomination for her efforts.  She followed that by playing Cinderella in the Shakespeare in the Park production of Into the Woods last Summer and then appeared as Helena Landless in the Broadway revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood last Winter.  She basically hasn't stopped working.  

Her turn in Nice Work is on par with her other performances and while she might not have any scenery to chew in this show like she did in Drood she actually comes across better than O'Hara did.  The role is a tomboy bootlegger and O'Hara is a little too refined to fully get that across whereas Mueller once again shows her skills to not only accurately portray a character unlike any we've seen her play before but her vocal abilities are truly special.  She actually sounds a lot like Doris Day, which based on her past shows I know is a style she is only incorporating for this role and it works sublimely. I expect even greater things from Mueller in the future. 

Jessie Mueller and Matthew Broderick
Broderick is still having a grand time in the show, though it did seem like he was joking around with the rest of the cast more than usual.  But that was probably due to the fact that they only had four more shows left in the run.

The rest of the featured cast is intact from last year with Tony winners Judy Kaye and Michael McGrath still joyous in their roles.  Jennifer Laura Thompson is still a hoot as Broderick's third finance/wife and gets plenty of laughs in her attempts at modern dance.  Also, Chris Sullivan and Robyn Hurder are even more delightful than before as the mismatched chorus girl and big lug who find a mutual attraction to each other.

For my overview of the plot of the show read my review of the preview we attended last year here.  

The show ended its Broadway run last week.  With the high amount of comedy and those gorgeous Gershwin tunes I expect this show will see plenty of regional productions in years to come. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

concert review PATTI LUPONE and the NJSO, June 2

For all of the intensity Patti LuPone is known for bringing to her performances it is almost equally matched with the joy she exudes when performing with an orchestra.  Watching Patti sing with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in a concert version of her cabaret show "Far Away Places" brought a smile to your face watching the fun and excitement Patti had performing with this large orchestra.

Patti says she's always considered herself to be a "gypsy" and one who has "wanderlust" so an evening about songs that are set all over the world seemed like a perfect fit for LuPone to tell us about herself, her journeys and her experiences in far away places.  With a heavy focus on Kurt Weill, the selection of material was eclectic yet still provided a good mix of serious songs, humorous character pieces and a few show tunes as well.

This show was one that Patti originally premiered last summer during the inaugural opening weeks of the hit new cabaret spot 54 Below in New York.  But there she was only accompanied by a small group of musicians so you can easily understand why Patti is having such a grand time when singing these songs with such a large orchestra.  Fortunately, she is having just as fun performing these songs and singing with the NJSO as we are listening to her sing them.

"Gypsy in my Soul" is the perfect song to start off the evening as the lyrics expertly set up the idea of someone with wanderlust.  Patti's voice soared throughout with a final note that practically tore the roof off the State Theatre.  "Far Away Places" by Alex Kramer and Joan Whitney is a joyous yet quiet song that has similar lyrics to "Gypsy in my Soul" but it also moves Patti's journey along with simple lyrics of these far away places calling to come see them for yourself.  Patti's understated but direct delivery of the song is a testament to her ability to get the meaning of even a simple, sweet and understated song across.  A swinging version of Willie Nelson's "Night Life" provided Patti a springboard to speak about the fact that "the night life ain't no good life, but it's my life."

There is plenty of serious material in the show including several Weill songs.  A loose yet direct version of "Bilbao Song" that Patti sings after speaking about the way New York used to be when Times Square was a little more dirty than it is today, perfectly echoes the memories that one thinks they remember from the past.  Weill's "September Song" receives a superlative treatment as does his "Pirate Jenny".   "Jenny" is delivered in the middle of a series of water themed songs that begins with a segment of Weill's "Ah the Sea is Blue" as well as Johnny Green and Edward Heyman's beautiful and romantic "I Cover the Waterfront" and Sondheim's "By the Sea" from Sweeney Todd.   Patti brings a rich, emotional intensity to this suite of songs, finding the perfect tone to make them all fit together nicely with Patti's delivery of "Pirate Jenny" the jewel in this sea set suite.

A nice pairing of two "market" songs includes the more intense "Black Market" by Frederick Hollander followed by the humorous "Come to the Supermarket in Old Peking" by Cole Porter.  Johnny Mercer's "I Wanna Be Around," which Patti dubbed "the Sicilian National anthem" after mentioning that she has Sicilian blood provided a nice touch of comedy.  Bill Burnett and Marguerite Sarlin's "I Regret Everything," which Patti has sung in some of her other shows before, was a perfect comic moment after the more serious suite of sea themed songs. 

One of Patti's encores was her second act solo "Invisible" from her recent Tony nominated performance in David Yazbek's Broadway musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.  Taken out of context of this not so well received show it actually worked better as it let you focus more on the story of the character singing the song and less about the crazy goings on in the musical around it.

Joseph Thalken orchestrated the material from Patti's cabaret show for a full orchestra and the results were breathtaking.  We've seen many concerts by the NJSO, but this eclectic selection of material showed their ability to play a wide range of songs that was almost as far from your standard selection of classic orchestra music as possible.

Patti's set was actually the second half of the concert with the NJSO performing solo for the first act of the evening that included several Rodgers and Hammerstein overtures from their shows that are set in far off lands as well as a superb suite from Rodger's Victory at Sea tv score.  A loving arrangement of Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns" showcased the superb skills of the NJSO string section.  Rob Fisher expertly led the orchestra for both acts.  "Far Away Places" was conceived and directed by Scott Wittman and this version, with a full orchestra is also set to be presented at Carnegie Hall in November.

Playbill highlights video from Patti's 54 Below concert of this show:


Monday, June 10, 2013

theatre review F#%KING UP EVERYTHING, Off Broadway, May 30

The new Off Broadway "rock" musical
F#%king Up Everything is a throw back to the old fashioned "boy meets girl, but with complications" love story that's been around forever.

Following a small group of young Brooklyn hipsters, this is a sweet and charming show and while the story is far from original and you can predict from the start where almost every character will end up, it's still a fun show with an engaging cast, some sweet songs and a rocking on-stage band.

Max Crumm


Nerdy Christian (Max Crumm) and jock/bad boy Jake (Jason Gotay) are best friends.  Jake is the lead singer of a band who's trying to make it in the Brooklyn rock scene and Christian is a children's puppeteer.  They are almost complete opposites in their looks, demeanor and lines of work but make a good duo.  When Jake's gal pal Ivy (Dawn Cantwell) introduces her college friend, singer songwriter Juliana (Katherine Cozumel) to the group, Christian falls hard for her, though is concerned that the more experienced in love Jake will complicate matters by turning on his bad boy charms.  Add in the fact that Ivy secretly loves Jakes and two other supporting characters, Ivy's sometime boyfriend and full time stoner Tony (Douglas Widick) who plays in Jake's band and band promoter Arielle (Lisa Birnbaum) who can make or break an up and coming band and you've got an interesting cast of characters who all have things to gain and lose in this modern day story of romance, rock and puppets.

Katherine Cozumel and Max Crumm
The story follows the unconventional courtship of Christian and Juliana, he is nerdy, clumsy and not exactly attractive and she is everything he isn't, but they form an almost immediate connection and end up bringing out the best in each other.  Now you know right away that they will end up together, no matter what obstacles they encounter. So I don't think I'm divulging any spoilers by revealing that but Sam Forman and David Eric Davis who collaborated on the book with Forman supplying the music and lyrics have created realistic characters and situations in a completely self aware show. The book has fresh and real dialogue with plenty of humor and Davis' score has a wide spectrum of songs including some upbeat numbers, emotional ballads and comical numbers. And while not all of them land perfectly, the range of styles and effective use of lyrics makes you pay attention.

Jason Gotay, Lisa Birnbaum and Max Crumm
Jen Wineman skillfully directs and choreographs the well honed young and energetic cast that features Max Crumm as Christian.  Crumm rose to fame by winning the role of Danny in the recent 2007 Broadway revival of Grease on the tv competition show Grease- You're the One that I Want that also saw Laura Osnes win the role of Sandy in that competitive reality show.   Osnes has followed her Grease run by winning two Tony nominations and starring in several Broadway productions, concerts and just released her second solo recording.  Crumm hasn't had such a high profile career as Osnes but this musical perfectly shows off his talents and proves that his winning that tv competition wasn't a fluke.  He makes Christian a real, grounded person and throws himself into the part.  While this is an ensemble show, Christian is really the central character and this production is lucky to have Crumm in the part.


Dawn Cantwell, Douglas Widick and Katherine Cozumel
Gotay is the hip, attractive rock star Jake who could be a caricature role.  Thankfully Gotay has the right balance to not make it a one dimensional part and Forman and Davis have created some interesting situations to put Jake into that give Gotay some nice moments to show off his comic abilities.  Katherine Cozumel is winning as Juliana.  She not only looks beautiful but plays the ukulele as well!  Rounding out the cast are Cantwell, Burnbaum and Widick who all get some nice stage time.  Cantwell gets to show off her sensitive side with the power ballad "If You Were Mine" where she pours out her feelings for Jake and even though Birnbaum doesn't show up until about half way through the show, she enters singing "Fuck-It List" which is a very funny song that allows Birnbaum to blow the roof off of the theatre with her high powered voice.  Widick is just hilarious as the stoner with a secret and rocks out big time when he plays with the on-stage band. 

The band must also not be forgotten, including drummer George Salazar who is featured in a few scenes, guitarist Adam Stoler and keyboardist, guitarist Eli Zoller who also serves as the music director.  They are having a fun time playing the rock inspired score.  Set designer Deb O makes effective use of the simple, small space and the puppet designs by David Valentine are truly inspired. 

F#%king Up Everything isn't the most original or greatest show to hit New York this year, but it is fresh, inspired, upbeat and realistic with a winning cast, characters and dialogue that have a genuine self awareness and a score with some nice tunes.   It's a fun show that makes for a fun night out at the theatre.

Official Website

Friday, May 31, 2013

cabaret review CHRISTINE EBERSOLE, NJPAC, May 11

Christine Ebersole is a gifted dramatic actress and comedienne and those skills make her cabaret shows into something better than most cabaret shows out there.  She so effortlessly segues from standard ballads to upbeat songs to comedic numbers with well written and delivered patter that is both humorous and related to the song choices, all without missing a beat.  And her connection to the lyrics is almost on par with Barbara Cook, who is the master of connecting to every word in every song she sings.  Ebersole's recent show at the NJPAC was another stellar affair.  

A swinging "Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead" opened up the show followed by the humorous "You Forgot Your Gloves."   Christine got every nuance, including joy and sorrow out of "Blame It On My Youth."  Ebersole manages to add many personal stories into her shows, including talking about her thoughts about aging which the song "Keep Young and Beautiful" perfectly spoke to, and her journey to Hollywood from Broadway which was capped off by a rousing "On the Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe."

Her shows often have moments when she speaks about her parents, her husband and three adopted children and this one had some humorous and touching moments including a simply lovely version of "Can't Help Lovin' that Man of Mine" from Show Boat.  A story and song that have become somewhat of a staple in her shows followed where Christine talks about her early days in New York City where 42nd Street wasn't a place that you'd want to visit but would be a street where she'd excel on many years later by winning a Tony award for her role in the revival of 42nd Street that actually played in a theatre on 42nd Street.  That story includes a hysterical reading of a Robert Frost poem read by the character she won her other Tony award for, Edie Beale in Grey Gardens.  Christine then gave a rip roaring take on 42nd Street's showstopping title number.

Christine spoke about the time when she knew she finally "made" it in Hollywood when she appeared in the tabloids when they wrote about the time she adopted two children on the same day.  A "true" story in the tabloids for a change she added.  In one night they went from a family of three to a family of five and she perfectly ended the story by adding that she realized on that night that "although fame in Hollywood had eluded me, my fortunes were asleep in my arms."  A touching pairing of "Tender Shepherd" from Peter Pan and "If I Were a Bell" from Guys and Dolls followed that perfectly got across the joy she must have felt on that evening.

A stunning pairing of songs that included a few verses from "When the World Was Young" that segued into "Another Winter in a Summer Town" from Grey Gardens showed why Christine deserved her Tony for that show.  Her delivery of the lyrics in an emotional way is not just effortless but natural as well. 

Christine now lives with her family in Maplewood, NJ which she lovingly mentioned with the simple statement, "Hollywood? Maplewood?  What a difference a leaf makes!"   She also mentioned her 90 year old mother who recently lived with her family for ten years but is now suffering memory loss.  Her mother would sometimes plays Methodist hymnals at the piano and Christine then delivered a touching take on the hymn "How Can I Keep from Singing"

Christine ended the show with a slowed down but still rousing version of "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries."  She followed this with an encore of "If You Haven't Got a Lot" that was a tribute to Eartha Kitt that was prefaced by Christine saying "I'm back. It's one of the funny conventions of cabaret, the false exit. I appreciate your warm and generous applause to bring me back on the stage even though I was coming back anyway!"  She ended the show with a second encore of "If You're Young at Heart" that was both simple and a lovely reminder of how classic songs can cap off a perfect evening.

John Oddo led a quartet of skilled musicians who made the evening seem just as effortless as Christine does.

Christine's official website

Christine sings "Ding, Dong the Witch is Dead" :