Monday, August 3, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of The Music Man at The I.C.C. Theater In Douglaston by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of The Music Man at The I.C.C. Theater In Douglaston was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

The Music Man
Book, Music & Lyrics by Meredith Willson
Richard Masin as Prof. Harry Hill
Monica Barczak as Marian Paroo
Director: Andrew Joseph Koslosky
Musical Director: Patrick White
Choreographers: Richard Masin & Dan Stravino
The I.C.C. Theater In Douglaston
72-00 Douglaston Parkway
Douglaston, New York 11362
Reviewed 8/1/15 at 8:00 p.m.

The Music Man opened on December 19, 1957 at the Majestic Theatre, where it remained for nearly three years before transferring to The Broadway Theatre to complete its 1,375-performance Broadway run on April 15, 1961. In 1958, it won a number of Tony Awards including Best Musical in the same year West Side Story was nominated for the award. When on Broadway, Robert Preston, Eddie Albert, and Bert Parks, respectively, each played Prof. Harry Hill, the con man and traveling salesman who falls in love with Marian Paroo, the town librarian and part-time piano teacher. The first United Kingdom production opened at Bristol Hippodrome, followed by London's West End at the Adelphi Theatre on March 16, 1961 starring Van Johnson as Hill. After eight previews, the first Broadway revival opened on June 5, 1980, at the New York City Center, where it ran for only 21 performances with Dick Van Dyke cast as Prof. Harry Hill. The second Broadway revival opened on April 27, 2000 at the Neil Simon Theatre where it ran for 699 performances and 22 previews with Craig Bierko (making his Broadway debut), in the lead role. The 1962 film adaptation of the musical starred Robert Preston as Prof. Harry Hill, and Shirley Jones as Marian Paroo. The 2003 television movie starred Matthew Broderick as Harry and Kristin Chenoweth as Marian.  

The plot of this musical concerns Prof. Harry Hill (an alias; his real name is Gregory), who poses as a boys' band organizer and leader in order to sell instruments, detailed instruction booklets, and uniforms to the simple folk living in the fictitious town of River City, Iowa in the early summer of 1912. Harry has no knowledge of music and after selling the townsfolk these items, he intends to skip town with the profit he made and perhaps a little extra "commission" of $300.00 for uniforms he never intends to put the order in for. He attempts to befriend Marian Paroo, the librarian and part-time music teacher because she is the person most likely to expose him. He also discovers an old friend, Marcellus Washburn, living in the town but despite "going straight," he still helps Hill with his con. He also hires Tommy Djilas, a local ruffian and outsider, as an assistant, while Charles Cowell, a rival salesman (an anvil salesman who called the locals "gullible green-grass goats"), is intent on exposing him because after Hill visits a town, he ruins the atmosphere for other salesmen. Cowell is also convinced Hill "doesn't know the territory." In the end, Prof. Harry Hill and Marian Paroo fall in love and Hill is sort of compelled to fulfill his promise to lead the local band. 

This production of The Music Man is the finest I have ever seen in a community theatre venue and Richard Masin, who played Prof. Harry Hill, has more talent and ability than 95% of the actors working in Broadway and Off-Broadway shows today. He is an exceptional, first-class, superior performer with an excellent voice and a charismatic stage presence. He embodied Prof. Harry Hill and nailed the role handling it better and more realistically than anyone else who has ever played it. Richard Masin is a rising star! He could easily lead a third Broadway revival of this musical and make it a hit. Monica Barczak, who played Marian Paroo, was perhaps a bit too matronly to be believable as someone Hill would fall in love with, but then again, the reason given for why Marian fell in love with Harry (he helped her brother overcome his shyness), despite knowing he is a con man, is also very hard to swallow. Ms. Barczak has the voice of an angel and it was a pleasure to listen to her sing. With nearly forty high-quality performers participating in this Broadway Blockbusters show, it is hard to pick out who put in that little extra in order to stand out. Besides the two lead actors already mentioned, my favorites were Erik Neilssen as Charlie Cowell, Dan Stravino as Marcellus Washburn, Kiera Liantonio as Mrs. Paroo, Mark Lord as Mayor Shin, and Rosario Amico as Tommy Djilas. Each brought their characters to life and significantly contributed to making this show the smashing success it was. However, that is not to say the other actors didn't make a significant contribution. They did, and many of them have that special spark that will enable them to have a well-respected career in the theatre.

Many of you will be familiar with the songs featured in this musical. such as "Rock Island," "(Ya Got) Trouble," "Seventy-Six Trombones," "Pickalittle (Talk-a-Little)," "My White Knight," "The Wells Fargo Wagon," "Shipoopi," and "Till There Was You." There was also a five-piece live band under the musical direction of Patrick White. I definitely recommend you go out and buy the CD. One message in this musical is that you should take a chance and do your best to achieve your dreams. If you always put things off to another day, you will find that life may have passed you by, or as Prof. Harry Hill told Marian, "If you pile up enough tomorrows, you'll find you've collected a whole lot of empty yesterdays."

This production of The Music Man was performed as a benefit for The Josephine Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charity that raises money and distributes 100% of the funds to its mission to support special individuals and programs, with no regard to race, color, creed, gender, age or financial status, by giving children and adults a chance to achieve their goals in life by providing opportunities in the arts and sports. Andrew Joseph Koslosky, the Director of this musical, is also the Founder and Chairman of the Board of The Josephine Foundation, which uses its performing arts projects to raise funds to provide support for medical, quality of life and disaster relief throughout the world. The Foundation has been responsible for well over $2.5 million in aid to areas within its mission statement since its inception in 2002. For more information about The Josephine Foundation, or to make a contribution, visit www.TheJosephineFoundation.org 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of Lanford Wilson's Talley's Folly at Theatre Box Of Floral Park by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Lanford Wilson's “Talley's Folly" at Theatre Box Of Floral Park was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Talley's Folly
A Play by Lanford Wilson
Starring Tony & Geraldine DiBari
Directed by Brian J. Payne
Theatre Box Of Floral Park
United Methodist Church
35 Verbena Avenue
Floral Park, New York 11001
Reviewed 7/31/15 at 8:00 p.m.

Talley's Folly is a 1979 play by American playwright Lanford Wilson. It is the second play in his cycle, The Talley Trilogy between his plays Talley & Son, and Fifth of July. It was first performed by the Circle Repertory Company on May 1, 1979, with Judd Hirsch as Matt Friedman, and Trish Hawkins as Sally Talley. The production moved to the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles before returning to New York for its Broadway opening at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on February 20, 1980. Talley's Folly won a Drama Critics' Circle Award and a Tony Nomination for Best Play in 1980. That same year, Lanford Wilson won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his work on this play. 

Talley's Folly is set in an old, run-down, wooden-lattice Victorian Boathouse (that looks like a gazebo) near rural Lebanon, Missouri on July 4, 1944. One year prior, Matt Friedman, a forty-two-year-old, Jewish accountant from St. Louis, spent seven days in Lebanon on vacation where he met Sally Talley, a single, thirty-one-year-old Gentile. You could say that both these characters' lives are in the same dilapidated shape as the boathouse. Sally, a Nurse's aide in a local hospital wants to move out of her family home. She is spirited, pro-union and even got fired from teaching Sunday School. The rise of labour unions was affecting the families of the children in her class and she felt obligated to "educate them" by introducing them to Veblen's The Theory Of The Middle Class. Her unorthodox methods earned her the consternation of the Methodist Church elders, as well as her own family members, who owned 25% of the garment factory where the labour issue was being debated. Matt Friedman, who never once asked a woman to marry him, and was never asked either, is a loner who has had a hard life and who has worn the same tie every day for the past five years. Since the week they spent together a year ago, Matt is smitten and has written Sally mundane, daily letters detailing every aspect of his boring life and has occasionally spoken with her Aunt Charlotte. Sally, herself, has given him no encouragement. She wrote him one letter and when he came out one day to visit her at the hospital, she had hospital staff tell him she was not there. Now, again uninvited, he has returned to Lebanon for one night so that they can, once and for all, decide whether they have feelings for one another. If in the affirmative, Matt intends to ask Sally to marry him.

The name of the play Talley's Folly, derives from the various "follies" her Uncle Edward built around town. He was a toy-maker and when, in 1870, he wanted to build a gazebo, his father told him that gazebos were a "frivolity" so, instead, he build a Victorian boathouse on the Talley Farm that looked like a gazebo (after all, that's what he wanted to build in the first place). He also constructed another gazebo in the town park that was coloured maroon, pink and gold. Despite objections, he build it and told the city elders if they didn't like it, they could tear it down. The gazebo remains and the town now uses it for High School Band Concerts. Sally considers her uncle the healthiest member of her family for his courage.

Matt Friedman tells Sally if she is truly not interested in him, he can take "no" for an answer but he cannot take "evasion." As he explains, "you can chase me away or put on a new dress, but you can't put on a new dress to chase me away." Matt jokes, cajoles, goofs around on ice skates, does a Humphrey Bogart impression and reminds Sally of the good times they had together. Faced with her reluctance to rekindle the relationship, he runs down the possible reasons Sally might be hesitant such as his religion, his age or the possibility he might be a German spy, but none of these seems to be why she is pushing him away. Aunt Charlotte told Matt that Sally has a secret that only she can tell him. There is a hint Sally allowed the nebbish Matt to get a taste of forbidden fruit when they spent seven days together a year ago. That would explain Matt's obsession with her and his completely unrealistic expectations for their relationship. Given Matt's physical restraint of Sally when she tried to scream and get away from him, I suspect "a violent incident" could have occurred if Sally continued to toy with his emotions and play games. 

Eventually, Matt decides to open up. He tells her his father was a Prussian Jew, who eventually became an engineer. His mother was a Ukrainian, who falsely claimed to be Sephardic. He was born in Kaunas, Lithuania. In 1911, his father was overheard in a French cafe discussing some work related to nitrogen (a reference to the Haber Process developed in 1909 by Jewish-German chemist, Fritz Haber, to extract nitrogen from the air, which made the manufacture of gunpowder and fertilizer cheaper), so the French detained his family when they were trying to cross the border and tortured his father and older sister, who went into a coma (and later died). When finally allowed to leave, they went to German authorities, who also tortured his father, and when his father and mother tried to escape to Denmark, they were both killed. An uncle brought Matt to America but he professes that "no allegiances can claim him anymore" and that he "doesn't believe in ism's because if you start to defend them, soon you start to treat them as if they are real." As a result, Matt describes himself as "a little crazy" and he has vowed never "to bring another child into a world filled with so much pain." Sally eventually confesses that she had tuberculosis, a fever, and a pelvic infection, that left her barren and unable to bear children." Her father looks at her as if she is "a broken swing." Given the irony of the situation, Sally admits she truly likes Matt, and she accepts his marriage proposal, leaving with him that night for St. Louis, Missouri. They vow to return to the boathouse every year so they don't ever forget the place where they fell in love.

Talley's Folly is performed as a two-person 97-minute one act play with no intermission. In this production, Toni Di Bari was Matt Friedman, and his wife, Geraldine DiBari played Sally Talley. They exhibited good rapport with each other and did a fine job in their respective roles. Brian J. Payne expertly directed the play. If you haven't seen Talley's Folly, here is your opportunity to catch it. It will be playing at Theatre Box Of Floral Park through August 8, 2015. Tickets can be reserved at http://www.theatrebox.org/ (Adult tickets: $15.00; Senior tickets: $10.00; Attendees 18 and under: $5.00). Refreshments including soda, water, cookies and cake are $1.00 each. I cannot promise you will like the characters in this play but given the inexpensive price and the high-quality performances, I can guarantee you will get more than your money's worth in entertainment value!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of Ronnie Giles' The Good, The Bad & The Lovely at Don't Tell Mama by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Ronnie Giles' The Good, The Bad & The Lovely at Don't Tell Mama was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

The Good, The Bad & The Lovely 

Starring Ronnie Giles
Musical Director: Daryl Kojak
Don't Tell Mama 
343 West 46th Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 7/30/15 at 8:00 p.m.

Ronnie Giles was born in Hackensack and raised in Lodi, New Jersey. He caught the acting bug at the now defunct Palisades Amusement Park in Bergen County where, at only 5 years old, he was brought on stage by Nat King Cole. The audience laughed and applauded, and he was hooked. After attending Lodi High School, he was on the lookout for new experiences and - at the strong urging of the Lodi Police - was "persuaded" to join the United States Army on October 29, 1965. He served in Vietnam (April, 1966 to April, 1967) as an Infantryman, Armored Personnel Carrier Driver, Ammo/Radio Man & Tunnel Rat with "A" Troop, 3/4 Cavalry, 25th Infantry Division, Cu Chi RVN. Upon discharge from the Army in 1968, Ronnie decided to pursue his life-long dream of becoming an actor. He studied with William Hickey, Alice Spivak and Kathryn Sergava at the Herbert Berghof Studio in New York City and worked steadily in the industry from 1968 to 1988, becoming a member of SAG/AFTRA and the Actors Equity Association. In 1988, he rejoined the military full time. Post 9-11, he simultaneously worked on assignments with local, state and federal Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence Agencies. During his last six years of service, he was attached to the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C. and attained the rank of Sergeant First Class/E-7. After an Army career that spanned over four decades, he retired from the military, having reached his mandatory retirement age of 60 on November 13, 2007. He is now back to pursuing his acting and singing career full time. He has appeared to date in 14 feature films and in over 50 student/short/independent films in a variety of leading and supporting roles. He has done a number of shows at Don't Tell Mama and specializes in doing Frank Sinatra & The Great American Songbook tribute shows.

The Good, The Bad & The Lovely features an eclectic mix of songs which includes "I've Got You Under My Skin,", "On Broadway," "It Was A Very Good Year," Town Without Pity," "Call Me Irresponsible," Spanish Harlem," "Moon River," "Up On The Roof," and "Put On A Happy Face." Ronnie Giles is a consummate entertainer who truly enjoys the experience of being on stage and performing for his fans. His enthusiasm is infectious. He even broke out into a little dance number during one of the songs. Wearing a red shirt and red sneakers with white laces, Ronnie performed center stage or sitting on a stool and was extremely grateful both to Daryl Kojak, his expert musical director, and to the audience for coming out to see him despite the hot weather. He relayed the fact that it was so hot out, he "saw a chicken laying fried eggs." 

Ronnie Giles sang a seamless smorgasbord of musical selections unencumbered by patter or song introductions. With this no-nonsense minimalist approach, you are provided with an unlimited all-you-can-eat buffet of the stylings of Ronnie Giles. During this show, he sang both upbeat songs as well as ballads, during some of which he "got emotional." Pointing this out to the audience, he said, "I've been through two wars and three divorces and I still cry like a little girl watching Bambi." 

If you are a fan of "The Kid From Lodi, NJ" and enjoy hearing him sing and seeing him perform, this show is for you! What you get is the very essence of Ronnie Giles, a natural born entertainer!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of The Windup Circus - The History Of Toys at The Loft at Prince by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of The Museum Of Interesting Things' Secret Speakeasy “The Windup Circus - The History Of Toys" at The Loft at Prince was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

The Windup Circus - The History Of Toys
Secret Speakeasy of The Museum Of Interesting Things
Hosted & Curated by Denny Daniel
The Loft at Prince 
177 Prince Street, 3rd Floor
New York, New York 10012
Reviewed 7/26/15 at 6:00 p.m.

The Museum Of Interesting Things is an interactive traveling exhibition of antiques and inventions. It was formed when curator and founder Denny Daniel started working as a freelance filmmaker and photo retoucher/restorer for such companies as The Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation, Songs Of Love, and The New York Times. Amassing his collection of antiques since the 1980s and having had over 20 museum and gallery exhibitions of his own work at locations like the Chelsea Art Museum, he decided to use his knowledge, experience, contacts, and extensive collection of over 300 antiques to start an enterprise that would inspire students and some of us in the "real" world to learn from the past and innovate a better future. The Museum currently has 8 specialties that coincide with the curriculum in our public schools as well as being fun and interesting for kids and adults. Those "departments" are Science, Math, Literature, Medical, Toys, Music, Household and Photography. Two additional designations just formed include Green Power items that will inspire the next generation to learn from the ingenuity of past generations, and Holyland/Antiquities that includes items dating from as far back as the Roman Empire. The Museum is based in New York City, but it can travel anywhere. Recent exhibitions have been at small and large schools, universities, hospitals, at showings of Nevermore: The Imaginary Life & Mysterious Death Of Edgar Allan Poe at New World Stages, and, most recently, at the Summer Soiree of the Beaux Arts Society.

This event was designated a Secret Speakeasy because the presentation could be moved or canceled at a moment's notice. Any last minute change will probably be because of the unavailability of the location, However, don't rule out a raid. The feds already confiscated an encrypted telephone that is decades old and despite wiping its memory, they have still not returned the item to the Museum. The invitation list is also exclusive. Denny Daniel encourages you to only invite "people you know and love." The theme of this month's Secret Speakeasy was "The Windup Circus - The History Of Toys." Denny Daniel hosted the event demonstrating various windup toys set out on tables throughout the space. He also told the story of a 1955 toy entitled Uranium Rush, an "educator approved game" where "Players begin with $15.000 and prospect for uranium in an area determined by a spinner (mountain, hills, or desert). Claims can be purchased for $1,000 each and may be auctioned off or tested for uranium. This involves an electric 'Geiger counter' that produces a buzzing sound if uranium is discovered. The claim is then sold to the federal government for $50,000. Players alternate turns until all claims have been staked and the person with the most money is declared the winner." 

The Loft at Prince is a great location to hold this event. It is a beautiful, comfortable setting with white sofas and a screen on which to watch old films. I was able to catch two short films - one stop action movie called "King Midas" and the second, a silent film, entitled "Underwater Circus." Denny Daniel saved all the acquisitions he got in the mail this month and allowed the attendees of the Secret Speakeasy to open the boxes to see what wonderful items were contained inside. Besides Denny's presentations, the films and short breaks that enabled those in attendance to socialize and look at all the items on display, there was also free food (this month a special donation of ribs, pork and cole slaw but usually spaghetti). A $10.00 donation is requested for the Museum of Interesting Things, and there is a cash bar, but everything is reasonably priced (e.g. a can of diet soda cost $2.00). 

The items in the collection of The Museum of Interesting Things have been featured on the television show Oddities. Next month's Secret Speakeasy is tentatively scheduled for Sunday, August 23, 2015 from 6-11 p.m. with the topic being "Victrola-a-Go Go! The History of Music Players" but check www.secretspeakeasy.com for any last minutes changes. For more information and to support the worthy efforts of The Museum Of Interesting Things, visit http://www.museumofinterestingthings.org/ 

Applause! Applause! Review of Happy 50ish at The Beckett Theatre by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of “Happy 50ish" at The Beckett Theatre was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Happy 50ish
Starring Lynn Shore & Mark Vogel
Book, Music & Lyrics by Lynn Shore, Mark Vogel & David Burnham
Direction & Choreography by Paul Stancato
Scenic & Lighting Design by Christopher Ash
Sound Design by David Crawford
The Beckett Theatre
410 West 42nd Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 7/26/15 at 6:00 p.m.

If you are 50ish or older, or know someone who is, you are going to appreciate this upbeat, hilarious, audience participation musical that will make you laugh and cry at the tragic reality of getting old. Happy 50ish is a surprise 50th birthday party for Bob being hosted by Mike, his best friend. The audience members are all invited guests at this party. So you get to yell "surprise" when Bob arrives, sing along now and then, and are encouraged to take pictures to post on social media. Bob's wife Pam is delayed because the bakery spelled Bob's name with two o's on the cake but as Master of Ceremonies, Mike gets the party rolling. He asks Bob to start reading a pile of birthday cards, the first being from AARP and another being from his proctologist, with whom he recently underwent a colonoscopy. That card thanked Bob for letting him "go where no man has gone before." Each of the birthday cards acted as a cue to singing a song about that particular topic. Other topics included having an enlarged prostate making it difficult to pee and suffering from erectile dysfunction.

Bob isn't thrilled about growing old and he is absolutely terrified at the thought of becoming a grandfather. On the other hand, he confesses that at 50, things are finally starting "to click" for him, like his knees, elbows, neck and chin. He also laments that the hair that was coming out of his head is now coming out of his ears. Mike and Bob have a wonderful rapport. They have been best friends for life and know everything about each other. They reminisce about when they were young and you got to choose any one of thirteen different television channels! Mike encourages Bob to tell the audience about when he was 15 years old and saw his first naked lady. Mike says to Bob, "What did you say?" and he responds, "Sorry Grandma!". Another story was about when Bob ran into Suzie, one of the hottest girls he knew in High School. He asked Suzie, "Weren't you in my class at Jefferson High?" and she responded, "I don't know. What class did you teach?" Happy 50ish is educational as well as being true-to-life. We learn from Bob that "menopause" is mentioned in the Holy Bible. To prove it, he reads the passage, "Mary rode Joseph's ass all the way to Egypt."

Happy 50ish features a remarkably attractive and well-lit set. The sound system is top notch and The Beckett Theatre is beautiful. Every seat in the house is a good seat! Mark Vogel as Mike and Lynn Shore as Bob are wonderful actors and singers with great synergy. All the musical numbers are very enjoyable and you will want to purchase the CD to listen to the songs over and over again. This musical runs for 90 minutes without an intermission but the time flies by and I guarantee you will leave the show in a good mood. Bob and Mike leave you with the following statement to ponder, "You don't stop laughing because you get old. You get old when you stop laughing!"

I highly recommend you see Happy 50ish and that you bring your friends. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.happy50ishmusical.com/  

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of South Shore Theatricals' The Melody Lingers On: The Songs Of Irving Berlin at The Madison Theatre at Molloy College by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of South Shore Theatricals' The Melody Lingers On: The Songs Of Irving Berlin at The Madison Theatre at Molly College was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

The Melody Lingers On: The Songs Of Irving Berlin

Produced & Directed by Bruce Bider & John Pane
Musical Director: Bruce Bider
Choreographer: Mike Canestraro
Stage Design: John Page
The Madison Theatre at Molly College
1000 Hempstead Avenue
Rockville Centre, New York 11570
Reviewed 7/25/15 at 8:00 p.m.

Irving Berlin (born Israel Isidore Baline) was a Russian-born, Jewish American composer and lyricist who is widely considered one of the greatest songwriters in American history. As Jerome Kern once said, "Irving Berlin has no place in American music. He is American music." Born on May 11, 1888, he published his first song, "Marie From Sunny Italy" in 1907, receiving 37 cents for the publishing rights. His first big hit, "Alexander's Ragtime Band," published in 1911, sparked an international dance craze. During his sixty-year career, he wrote an estimated 1,500 songs, including the scores for 19 Broadway shows and 18 Hollywood films. Over a period of five decades, Berlin's songs defined American popular music. He died on September 22, 1989, at age 101. This show, The Melody Lingers On: The Songs Of Irving Berlin, was written to introduce Irving Berlin to new generations of those not familiar with his life and accomplishments. It features nearly thirty-two of his most famous songs interspersed with narration regarding the milestones of his interesting and tumultuous life.

South Shore Theatricals brought together a multi-generational cast of approximately fifty and was able to get a number of special guests and luminaries from the stage, screen, television, and cabaret to perform. Frank Basile, a bass who is comfortable on the grand opera stage and cabaret alike, was most impressive with his inspiring and moving renditions of "The Girl I Love (Is On A Magazine Cover)," "A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody," and "The Girl That I Marry." Sarah Rice, Broadway's original "Johanna" in Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, is an extraordinarily talented woman who brought the house down singing "How Deep Is The Ocean?", "Supper Time," and "All Alone." Together, they sang two magical duets - "Always," and "Let's Face The Music & Dance." Kathryn Crosby, a majestic and elegant performer, sang "I Love A Piano," Blue Skies," as well as a number of duets including White Christmas, a song her late husband, Bing Crosby, popularized. The very charismatic Richard Halpern (a/k/a Mr. Tin Pan Alley) sang "Oh! How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning," "Cheek To Cheek," and "Let Me Sing & I'm Happy." Judi Mark was superb throughout but really made her mark singing "Shaking The Blues Away," while Peggy Sue Johnson put us in a country mood with her rousing presentation of "You Can't Get A Man With A Gun." The only complete drain on the very life of this production was Michael Buscemi, who played Irving Berlin himself. He simply was not in the same class as the featured performers. Whoever made the decision to cast him in this major role made a big mistake. He could not particularly sing or act well, yet his voice and presence was the first thing the audience heard when the show opened. It took suffering through a few numbers and feeling I had wasted my time coming out to see this show when finally, Kathryn Crosby and Frank Basile took the stage and my hope for enjoying the production was once again restored.

The Teen and Children's Ensembles were dressed to the nines and added their dancing and singing talents to enhance the enjoyability of many numbers. Their presence was particularly visible in "Play A Simple Melody" and "Puttin' On The Ritz", while they and the rest of the Adult Ensemble really came together well when the entire company sang "God Bless America" and "There's No Business Like Show Business." The images of posters from musicals and of LP record covers projected on the back wall of the stage were perfectly coordinated with the songs and medleys presented. However, when a microphone went dead on stage, there seemed to be no one paying attention so that someone could quickly fix it.

Everyone who attended this show surely got more than their money's worth and enjoyed an excellent and informative evening of entertainment. After the show, those in the know, performers and audience members alike, converged at the Golden Reef Diner in Rockville Centre for some interesting and lively conversation while having breakfast or dinner, and sampling the diner's new gelato bar. Keep an eye out for South Shore Theatricals next production. You won't want to miss it!

Applause! Applause! Review of Cole Escola Is The First Gay President at The Duplex Cabaret Theatre by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Cole Escola Is The First Gay President at The Duplex Cabaret Theatre was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Cole Escola Is The First Gay President 

Written & Performed by Cole Escola
The Duplex Cabaret Theatre
61 Christopher Street
New York, New York 10014
Reviewed 7/24/15 at 9:30 p.m.

Cole Escola is a very talented comedian, actor and writer who grew up poor in Oregon. For the first six years of his life, he lived in a trailer on someone else's property. His dad had P.T.S.D. from his service in Vietnam and was a big drinker. His mom brought him up along with his younger brother and older sister. Eventually, Cole made his way to New York City where he has lived for the past ten years. He was the co-creator, writer and star of the cult-hit television show Jeffery & Cole Casserole, which appeared for two seasons on Friday nights at midnight on LOGO. Premiering August 5, 2015 on Hulu, Cole will play Matthew on Difficult People, a show starring Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner about New York comedians who are completely lacking in self-awareness. He will play a waiter, who is the nemesis of Eichner's character. Cole Escola was recently named one of the Top Ten Downtown Cabaret Performers by Time Out New York and is an alum of the 2015 CBS Diversity Showcase. Given this history and the fact that every one of his previous monthly cabaret shows at The Duplex has been completely sold out made me want to go see what this young, hot, rising star had to offer.

There is no doubt that Cole Escola, who identifies himself as a "character actress," exhibits flashes of genius throughout the show such as when he refers to "the great humorist Joseph Stalin" or when he complains how "all these theatre people have created a culture of fear with their admonitions against photographing them on stage." Cole encourages his audience members to take photos of him and to post them on social media. He warns the dinosaurs performing on the New York Stage to "Adapt or Die!" Cole's sketch comedy show has absolutely nothing to do with him being the "First Gay President" and he basically appears as a variety of characters and speaks about whatever happens to be on his mind. Cole performs the whole show in briefs and then puts on costumes and wigs appropriate to the character he is about to perform whether that be a Southern Baby, A Woman Who Just Woke Up, A Goblin Wall Street Professional Who Lives In Hoboken, A Straight Teenage Boy, or a Housewife Living On A Horse Farm In New England. Given Cole Escola's boyish good looks, charm and charisma, performing in briefs was a brilliant, refreshing decision which basically relayed the message, "here I am, open and exposed, holding back no secrets from you." Recognising his own attractiveness, he tells the audience, "I'm not my first choice, but I would fuck me!" 

On the negative side, Cole has not memorised the order of his sketches and very unprofessionally relies on his friend Christian, who sits on the side of the stage, to tell him what character he should do next. Christian also laughs at Cole's sketches many decibels higher than any audience member, which was quite distracting. While each of Cole's characters is unique and interesting, the scripts for most of the sketches need to be re-written so as to be sharper with more meaningful or twisted endings. If you are going to write an absurd story about a jealous horse, at least have the horse stomp the man to death, as opposed to shooting him and if a woman is getting ominous calls in a horror movie, you can do better than having the final call being from Terry Gross of Fresh Air. Funny? Yes. But not with the edge I expect from a budding genius. 

Cole Escola inhabits his characters with an innocence and honesty that has made his monthly show at The Duplex Cabaret Theatre one of the hottest tickets in town. There is a perky, irrepressible brilliance about him that makes it highly likely he will become a huge success in the years and decades to come. He needs a manager and/or a collaborator with a good eye who can tell him what works and what doesn't work. I believe he may lack perspective in that area given the lavish praise and compliments he receives from his many devoted fans. But there is no doubt he is on the right track and has an amazing future in the industry. For more information about Cole Escola, visit his website at www.ColeEscola.com