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News: I’m directing a reading of a P!nk musical

Meangraphic

I will direct a developmental reading of the new musical Mean at Emerging Artists Theatre. The musical, with book by Kerri Kochanski (1,001 People That Suck, The Food Monologues), features music and lyrics by Grammy Award winning pop icon Alecia Moore (aka P!nk). The workshop features choreography by Liz Piccoli (Spandex the Musical), and musical direction by Luke Williams.

Mean tells the story of Jinx, an up and coming rock star in Hollywood, using some of P!nk’s biggest hits as its soundtrack.

The reading is open to the public and will take place on Saturday, May 30th at 2:00 PM at the TADA Theater, 15 West 28th Street in NYC.

The cast features Rock of Ages star Justin Mortelliti (Broadway World Award nomination for Best Leading Actor in a Musical), Meghan Leathers (Scenes From An Execution), Luis Villabon (Reefer Madness), Elyssa Brette Mactas (A & E’s “The Haunting of Beverly Mitchell”), Jay Reum, Michael Fisher, Jennifer Roderer, Espen Sigurdsen, Tim Realbuto, Zach Wachter, Jon Garrity, Charly Dannis, Madeline Acquaviva, Shaina Vencel, Loulu Luzi, Thea Lammers, Mary Bolt, Shannon Burke, and Kevin P. Sullivan. Vanna Richardson will serve as the Production Stage Manager.

Tickets, priced at $10, are available here.

For more about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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Review: Judy Collins

Judy Collins 2015 KJukKyt

No one sings a folk song more beautifully than Judy Collins, and few people sing more beautifully, period. She’s an authentic river of song, in truly golden voice in her seventies. She’ll be talking about a song in passing, and then launch into three or four lines, singing with breathtakingly casual grace and beauty. And then continue with her story “and so I told Leonard Cohen that yes, ‘Suzanne’ is a good song and I’ll be recording it tomorrow…”

When she sings a song in earnest, she’s truly arresting, imbuing each line with subtle style, implying stories behind stories. She’s known as one of the best interpretive artists in pop music, and in this act she brilliantly illuminates songs ranging from traditional folk to Dylan and the Beatles to Sondheim and Jacques Brel. She also reminds us that she went on to truly earn the singer/songwriter epithet by giving heartfelt renditions of her own songs “My Father” and “Arizona.”

The stories she actually tells are truly entertaining, varying from the touchingly personal to the hilariously bawdy. She is so enthusiastically invested in the music – her spectacular, undiminished talent always gives me an amazingly intense cabaret experience. Highly recommended.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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Review: Gigi

Gigi 3435

Bottom line: Vanessa Hudgens doesn’t embarrass herself. She’s perfectly fine as a beautiful girl coming of age in the glamorous and morally ambiguous wold of belle epoque Paris (though honestly at Broadway prices, “perfectly fine” isn’t quite enough). The best thing about this production, however, is Victoria Clark as her youngish grandmother Mamita.

When acting the role of Mamita, Clark gives the evening’s most shaded performance – we see her stern concern for Gigi, but always colored with a warm feeling of deep love. But it is when Clarke sings that Gigi really takes flight, her solo “Say A Prayer” being the one moment in the show with undeniable emotional pull and musical theater magic.

The show does have other virtues: Dee Hoty delights as Gigi’s courtesan aunt, who tries to persuade the girl to follow in her footsteps. Joshua Bergasse’s elegant and vivacious choreography continues his winning streak, giving the show a shot of exuberance that it doesn’t otherwise possess. I’ll even give an odd moment of anachronistic Fosse-esque jazziness a pass since the rest of Bergasse’s work is just so darn good. Catherine Zuber’s costumes are deliciously sensual, reminding us in detail just what was so belle about that epoque.

As to the score, it’s by those “golden age of musicals” masters Lerner & Loewe. It definitely isn’t their best work, but it nonetheless has all the virtues of classic Broadway, and there’s no denying the pleasure of hearing it sung by the likes of Clark, Hoty and Howard McGillin.

In the end, though, this is more of a diverting musical than one that’s deeply satisfying in any way. This bon bon really left me wanting something more substantial.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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Review: On the Twentieth Century

On the 20th 0903- Karl, Chenoweth

Witnessing Kristen Chenoweth at the top of her form and perfectly cast is the whole reason to see this revival. The show’s creators, composer Cy Coleman and wordsmiths Betty Comden and Adolph Green, were all masters of musical theatre, but On the Twentieth Century is nobody’s best work. Don’t get me wrong, the musical is very entertaining and quite well-crafted, but it finally works best as a star vehicle. And, thank goodness, Chenoweth is one hell of a star!

Chenoweth plays bawdy and chic Hollywood star Lily Garland, whom bankrupt theater producer Oscar Jaffee (Peter Gallagher) wants to cajole into playing the lead in his new, yet-unwritten epic drama. This madcap pursuit takes place aboard the Twentieth Century, a luxury train travelling from Chicago to New York City. Chenoweth is truly incandescent here, her frisky comic chops ideally matched to Comden and Green’s smartalecky wit.

Gallagher is far nuttier and better looking than David Belasco, the fading impresario on whom Jaffee’s based. Not to mention hammier, in a good way (although he would be hard pressed to out-ham Andy Karl as vain, muscle-bound movie leading man Bruce Granit)! Director Scott Ellis is having a lot of success this season combining fearless comic actors with suitably over-the-top characters, both here and in You Can’t Take It With You. His staging also imparts a much needed impish energy to the show.

There’s also an adorable quartet of train porters – who execute some of the best moves I’ve seen from choreographer Warren Carlyle. They even get a showstopping number of their own, the Act II opener “Life’s a Train”. The whole show is never less thans a giddy good time. Recommended.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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Review: The Audience

Audience

Helen Mirren playing Queen Elizabeth II in a script by Peter Morgan is some kind of magic formula. It worked wonders in the film The Queen, and that alchemy works equally well in the new stage production The Audience.

The Audience is based on the fact that British Prime Ministers have a weekly audience, or private meeting, with the monarch. The play imagines a series of pivotal audiences from Winston Churchill to David Cameron, as each Prime Minister uses these confidential conversations as a sounding board and a confessional – sometimes intimate, sometimes explosive.

The play’s chronology is non-linear, starting with John Major (1990-1997) and following a trail of themes and memories that make sense of both monarch and monarchy. Slowly, a central conflict emerges between the Ministers’ necessarily narrow focus on British problems, and the queen’s broader responsibility to the international organization she heads, the Commonwealth of Nations. It’s a wider conflict than the crisis of Lady Diana’s death portrayed in The Queen, but no less powerful and engaging.

Stephen Daldry directs the piece with equal parts grace and vigor. He makes sure the intellectual complexities are clear and easily understood, but he also provides pure theatrical splash where needed.

This is Mirren’s show above all, and she peels off the years as easily as her dressers peel off her wigs and dress (often in on-stage slight of hand). The Audience in particular shines a light on the less-remembered Labour PM Harold Wilson (1964-1970, 1974-1976), with whom Elizabeth seemed to share a particularly easy rapport. Richard McCabe portrays Wilson with a mix of bluster, smarts, and wry good humor. Judith Ivey also scores bringing Margaret Thatcher to terrifying life (in an equally terrifying, high-flying wig). Highly recommended.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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Review: Mark Nadler

Mark Nadler Addicted

Cabaret star Mark Nadler is one of the greatest showmen of our time, capable of leaping from floor to piano bench, tap-dancing madly, singing and keeping steady eye contact with the audience – all this while playing a complex passage on the piano without even glancing at the keys. His last few shows have been a little more subtle, but in his latest “Addicted to the Spotlight”, the taps shoes are on and all bets are off.

In this show, Nadler interweaves stories from his more than four decades in show business with those of two other guys who were addicted to the spotlight — Al Jolson and Danny Kaye. The songs in this act are all numbers that those two supreme show-offs did.

In addition to the hoofing, he plays and sings with virtuosic abandon, in a show constructed with the passionate intelligence I’ve come to expect from him. The result is pretty stunning. There are always many layers in a Mark Nadler show, ranging from the obvious to unspoken subtext, which gives an “oomph” far, far beyond your typical cabaret show.

The show evolves into a complex portrait of Nadler, Kaye and Jolson, capturing both the bright joys and dark nights that a life devoted to show business brings. There are occassional moments that flirt with schmaltzy sentiment, perhaps not inappropriate in a show about performers who express themselves in bold strokes. Even with that, this is as giddily entertaining – and breathtakingly smart – as cabaret gets. Highly recommended.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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Review: Herb Alpert and Lani Hall

Herb Alpert & Lani Hall-47_0T7A563320150310L copy

Pure musical pleasure. But not just that. By the second song of their latest Cafe Carlyle gig, Herb, Lani and the boys are already improvizing into the stratosphere with outlandish zest, in a version of “Chattanooga Choo Choo” which features the most tasteful, sophisticated and syncopated use of synthisizers and drum machines I’ve ever heard in my life. I mean, come on!

Trumpeter Herb Alpert is most associated with his group the Tijuana Brass, and was also a recording industry executive – he is the “A” of A&M Records, which he founded with business partner Jerry Moss. His wife Lani Hall sang with A&M artist Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66, most famously on their hit version of “Mas Que Nada”. In the act at the Carlyle they perform selections from Alpert’s latest album In the Mood (which features that groovy “Choo Choo”), as well as the two albums they’ve recently recorded together, plus medleys of Tijuana Brass and Brasil ’66 hits.

I can’t overstate the impressive and exciting musicianship in this act. Alpert has structured the songs in intricate ways that leave abundant room for improvisation. They may play the same songs from night to night, but musically every performance will be utterly different. Alpert is a breathtakingly soulful player, and Lani has that kind of liquid crystal voice that songwriters dream of.

For example, Alpert dropped the melody from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “It Might As Well Be Spring” into brilliant Brazilian songwriter Edu Lobo’s “Viola Fora de Moda”, provoking appreciative smirks from Lani and pianist Bill Cantos, and inspiring several minutes that lifted the gorgeously melancholy Lobo song into something more playful and sun-kissed. Stunning.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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