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 for any last minutes changes. For more information and to support the worthy efforts of The Museum Of Interesting Things, visit 

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  

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 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of Happy 50ish at The Beckett Theatre by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg

This review of “Happy 50ish" at The Beckett Theatre was written by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg 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.

I saw the opening night performance of Happy 50ish with book, music, and lyrics by Lynn Shore, Mark Vogel, and David Burnham. The scenic and lighting design by Christopher Ash created a visual delight for the eyes while sound design by David Crawford enabled us to hear every word. The Beckett Theatre is an off-Broadway theatre where any seat is a good seat. I was in a corner-back seat and still could see and hear everything.

Mike, enthusiastically played by Mark Vogel, is hosting a surprise 50th Birthday Party for Bob, his best friend, and everyone in the audience is a guest at that party. Bob, realistically portrayed by Lynn Shore, is celebrating, moaning, groaning, and lamenting his fiftieth birthday. His wife, whom we never meet, is delayed because the bakery misspelled Bob's name as "Boob" on the cake so Mike gets the party rolling. Mike and Bob trade one-liners, jokes, songs, memories, trivia, dreams lost and found, defeats and victories, failures and triumphs. Bob has three generations and five decades of memories of happy and sad events. His happiest memory is that his father found time to play baseball with him; he also found time to do so with his own son; and, in time, looks forward to playing baseball with his new grandson, although he dreads the day when he will be called "grandpa."

Throughout this musical, I laughed and cried at the same time. Mike is indispensable as the raconteur, the master of ceremonies, and as a friend who has stood by Bob through the ups and downs of their lives. The music and songs relate to the experiences of our two main characters. They range from funny to sad and add to the ambiance of the occasion. The audience is treated as dear friends and encouraged to sing-along and enjoy the party while we await the arrival of his birthday cake. Toward the end of this 90-minute play that ran without intermission, Bob receives a call from his wife informing him he has become a grandfather for the first time and he looks forward to this new turn in his life despite his earlier reservations - and who better to share this new journey with than his best friend Mike. 

Happy 50ish is a musical joyride full of the cavalcade of life's mostly good fortunes as long as you ignore going bald, suffering from erectile dysfunction, preparing for the indignity of having multiple colonoscopies, and losing your eyesight and hearing. It was a privilege to catch this well-acted, two-man play, which I believe has the potential to become a big hit that will run for years! For more information, visit

Applause! Applause! Review of Pamela Robbins' The Cosmic Lives Of The Antiquarians at Manhattan Repertory Theatre by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Pamela Robbins' The Cosmic Lives Of The Antiquarians at Manhattan Repertory Theatre was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

The Cosmic Lives Of The Antiquarians
Written & Directed by Pamela Robbins
Manhattan Repertory Theatre
303 West 42nd Street, 6th Floor
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 7/24/15 at 7:00 p.m. 

In popular culture, the Age of Aquarius refers to the advent of the New Age and Peace Movement in the 1960s and 1970s. However, by naming this play The Cosmic Lives Of The Antiquarians, Pamela Robbins, the playwright, chose to open a debate as to whether anything those idealistic peaceniks did through their drug use, free love, coffee houses, anti-war songs, rallies, and demonstrations had any long-term impact on society. Using the term in its pejorative sense, "antiquarians" are viewed as "lacking an awareness of the realities and practicalities of modern life, and of the wider course of history." Hence the Antiquarians in this play, who work at the Antiquarius Book Store, sell books on peace, aspire to give money "to worthy causes," and bicker over petty personal issues, may simply have been blind to how little impact they were really having on the world. Ms. Robbins admits in her bio, "I grew up during the Peace Movement and as a younger person ardently believed that 'mankind's efforts, worldwide, would put an end to war'. The fact that warfare did not cease after Vietnam was crushing." In order to reinforce her message, one of the characters in her play, commenting on the bookstore, says, "The whole scheme was crap. No one can change the world." while another reflects, "We were just dumb. You can't change the whole grand theme of things with an idea." At the end of this surprisingly substantive and insightful play, we learn that the only real peace that may exist for us is in death.

The play opens in the Staff Room of the Psychology Department at St. George University somewhere in the Midwest in 1968. Alma, Tad, Luke and Andy are all medical or psychology department interns when Alma learns she has inherited money from her parents, both who died in a boating accident the year before. Alma decides to use the money to open Antiquarius Books, a new peace-related bookstore. Miss Bidittendotten, Alma's Psychology Department Supervisor, reminds her that "peace can be brought to the world in any environment" but she is adamant about opening the bookstore and all the rest of the interns decide to  join her. The bookstore struggles until Lena, the 17-year-old daughter of Reverend Patterson, a preacher at the Free Baptist Church, comes along and volunteers her time. Using her friendly personality and contacts, the bookstore soon flourishes and becomes a huge success but Alma becomes jealous of how all the boys are more attracted to Lena than they are to her. Due to this petty rivalry, especially over the affections of Tad, Alma indirectly encourages Lena to attend a dangerous demonstration at which a stray bullet takes her life. The Antiquarians are blamed, the bookstore fails, and the lives of all the interns unravel and spiral downwards. In time, Tad attempts to kill himself, Luke moves to Colorado and overdoses on illegal drugs, Andy moves away to leave all the "baggage" behind, Rev. Patterson gives up his position and moves in with his sister, and Alma, blaming herself for Lena's death, becomes depressed and unproductive, finally forgiving herself seconds before she passes away.

Obviously the play is not a comedy, although it does have a number of light-hearted moments especially when two songs are sung by hippies of all ages during one of the bookstore's Coffee Houses. Alma chooses to call her little band of followers "antiquarians" because she says it will show they "are serious" and then exclaims, "It will be cosmic!" But it turns out not to be cosmic, but tragic instead! Foreshadowing the futility of their efforts, Andy reports having a dream about two identical skyscrapers being blown up at some point in the future. He then draws a "Ban The Bomb" poster with the Twin Towers on it surrounded by a cloud of smoke. My favorite line in the play was when Luke turned to Andy immediately after he reported this nightmare and said, "You need to bunk with me tonight. If you have another bad dream, I can wake you up." Andy readily agrees and I thought, "What a come-on line!" Later, Alma, reflecting her own doubts about the worthiness of her efforts, imagines Ms. Bidittendotten offering her a chance to work on a psychological study looking into "the susceptibility of young people from unstable environments to join cultish-type movements." 

Lyndsey Munter was a delight to watch on stage with her charismatic portrayal of Lena, the young and idealistic preacher's daughter who wanted "to inspire other young people to discover their true earthly mission" by using "music therapy to help others save the world." Tom Morwick was solid and successful presenting Reverend Patterson as both a loving father concerned about his daughter hanging out with hippies while, simultaneously, having a big enough heart to provide food to the struggling bookstore volunteers and to welcome them into his church. Wil Hart, a rising star, was very strong as Tad, both as an actor and in his role as a musician. Morgan Wright as Alma, and Linda Meris as Miss Bidittendotten handled their roles well. However, Charles Moxley as Luke, and his identical brother Lenard as Andy, both overacted to the point of distraction. They are clearly attractive and talented actors, but my advice to them is not to try so hard. Just be yourself on stage and don't feel the need to overemphasize your lines. The Coffee House Guests included Pia Finnegan, Rosalie R. Harman, Cheryl Lisbin-Sifuentes, Linda Meris, Richard Memminger, and Lily Nass. 

One of Alma's final statements was to say, "We thought if we rallied, we could stop hate." It is clear from this production of The Cosmic Lives Of The Antiquarians that all the Coffee Houses, rallies and demonstrations didn't get them close to achieving their long-term goal of changing the culture of society and bringing peace and love to the world. Perhaps it was naive for them to believe they ever had a chance of succeeding. In the end, we are left watching old, aging women dressed in their original 1960s hippie outfilts blindly and robotically singing "songs of peace" to an audience and a world that is not listening and couldn't care less about their childish and naive idealism. All there is left to do now is to wait for these last-living fossils of the Peace Movement to die just as every character in this play also dies by the time the final curtain falls.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of 702 Punchlines & Pregnant: The Jackie Mason Musical at The Broadway Comedy Club by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg

This review of “702 Punchlines & Pregnant: The Jackie Mason Musical" at The Broadway Comedy Club was written by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

702 Punchlines & Pregnant: The Jackie Mason Musical
Book, Music & Lyrics by Ginger Reiter
Additional Material by Ian Wehrle
Orchestrations by Noriko Sunamoto
Choreography by Lara Clear
The Broadway Comedy Club
318 West 53rd Street
New York, New York 10019
Reviewed 7/15/15 at 2:00 p.m.

Ginger Reiter, who wrote the book, music and lyrics to this musical, slept with Jackie Mason, at the urging of her mother, to advance her career or snag him into marriage. According to Ms. Reiter, they had a passionate love affair over a period of ten years (whenever Jackie Mason was in south Florida). Jackie Mason made it clear he wasn't interested in marriage or having children, but due to Ginger's failure to take proper precautions, she got pregnant and gave birth to Sheba Mason. Only under Court Order did Jackie Mason pay child support for the minimum number of years he was required to do so. Other than that, to this day, he will have nothing to do with his daughter. However, as long as it only involved sex, he had no problem continuing to sleep with the mother of his child so long as he didn't have to see or have anything to do with the kid.

Except for the moral implications of the plot, every aspect of this highly entertaining show was perfect. You will laugh at the jokes, enjoy the songs and music, and be charmed by the acting. I guarantee you will indeed have a good time. Ian Wehrle is a talented actor who successfully impersonates Jackie Mason's gestures and voice. Sheba Mason shines playing both her mother in the show as well as the narrator of the story. There are twenty original songs in this musical, each one with its own unique charm. 702 Punchlines & Pregnant: The Jackie Mason Musical tells about how Ginger and Jackie met and details chronologically how their relationship unfolded. A prominent force in helping Jackie Mason meet and sleep with as many as three women a night was his wing man, who I actually met at a friend's house where he charmed us with anecdotes that were as revealing as the show was about him. He was adroit at handling Jackie's constant demands and insecurities as every so often his cell phone would ring and he had to handle the latest crisis presented to him by Jackie Mason, whose personality is so strong, I could actually feel his impact second hand by telephone. In any case, his wing man not only introduced women to Jackie but later in his life after Jackie married Jyll Rosenfeld in 1991, he needed to coordinate with Mrs. Jackie Mason so she would be happy and so that there would be no World War III between the two of them.

If the lyrics of the songs in this musical could be transformed into knives, they would cut Jackie's balls off. Unfortunately, it appears to me that Sheba Mason buys into her mother's mantra of being a victim. But hey, her mother failed to snare a schmuck into marriage and got stuck raising her daughter by herself. It is time for Sheba Mason to liberate herself from her mother's desire for revenge and move on.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of Tim Ruddy's The International at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg

This review of “The International" at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater was written by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

The International
A Play by Tim Ruddy
Directed by Christopher Randolph
Peter Jay Sharp Theater
at Playwrights Horizons
416 West 42nd Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 7/15/15 at 7:30 p.m.

The International, a play by Tim Ruddy, an Irish actor, raises the issue of an individual's humanity and when, and under what circumstances, the suffering of others should morally compel one to act, even if one's elected representatives, and society as a whole, remain silent and unresponsive to a particularly heinous humanitarian crisis. The play opens at an art museum where three characters look at abstract paintings and start to share their stories with the audience, but not with each other. One is an unemployed truck driver in Los Angeles, another is a Muslim woman excited to be attending a wedding in a small village, and the third is an International Peacekeeper from The Netherlands. As the plot progresses, the International Peacekeeper and the woman's lives intersect at the center of a genocide, while the third commentator, the guy from Los Angeles, watches the crisis unfold on television, and eager to get the money to take his family to Disneyland, actually bets that those in the town under siege will be slaughtered before help arrives. We hear the soul-wrenching stories of each person as they recall their experiences. Although the location of the genocide is not named, it appears to have been inspired by the Serbian ethnocide of Bosnians in Srebrenica. However, the message and the suffering are universal and relevant to any number of conflicts throughout the world. I remember standing in my synagogue every Friday night looking at a poster that read, "What about Dafur?". The reference was to the Muslim genocide of animists and Christians in the southern part of Sudan. But few people care about human suffering outside of Europe and I wondered, "Shouldn't our outrage and compassion be universal?".

The linchpin of the play is Irina (played by Carey Van Driest), who wakes up to what she expects to be a very happy day. She looks forward to attending a wedding. She gossips about the tableau of happy life in her neighborhood. As the ethnic conflict explodes, she narrates the increasing destruction that strips her and her family of their humanity as they struggle to survive at all costs and tragically fail in the endeavor. Her father is brutally killed while she allows herself to be repeatedly raped in an unsuccessful effort to save the life of her ten- year-old son. She survives the unendurable. You wonder how she is able to go on. Her tragic plight reminds me of Elie Wiesel's experiences at Auschwitz and Buchenwald written about in his book Night. As I watched the play, I vividly recalled the word pictures that Elie Wiesel painted when he spoke at my synagogue of his dreadful experiences that were far beyond adequate description and the parameters of normal human endurance. 

The genocide in The International takes place because of the indifference of the international community. The United Nations peacekeeping force sent to protect people failed in its duty because of a lack of resources, commitment, and the incompetence of bureaucrats who were unable to take decisive action. Hans (played by Timothy Carter), one of the Dutch peacekeepers, has a nervous breakdown because he was powerless to save the lives of those he was supposed to safeguard. Dave (played by Ted Schneider), represents an uncaring world when he cheers for genocide as a spectator sport because he has money riding on the outcome.

Tim Ruddy's script is brought to life by the superb performances of the actors. His writing moved me emotionally and reached into my heart. He challenges the audience to ask, "Shouldn't our concern be for all human suffering regardless of our own individual ideological perspectives or country of origin? If not, are we doomed to witness many more genocidal actions in the years and decades to come? When will each citizen of the world step forward and finally say, No More! Not On My Watch!."