Monday, February 16, 2009

Randelaide's Lament

Right, I’m here, don’t panic, everything’s under control.

It's a wonder I made it through this schmucky weekend. Saturday (Valentine's Day), I stepped outside of my apartment and it was like a horror movie; the sun was shining, the sky was bright blue, there were couples with vacant expressions walking hand-in-hand down every sidewalk and men holding those tacky single roses wrapped in white paper and those doofy metallic helium heart balloons standing on every corner. I hissed through the black veil covering my face, fired a couple of warning shots and ran back inside, where I remained all day.

Things got better that evening. I spent some time with the lovely and talented Shoshana Bean, who did a little mini-concert at a club down in Chelsea. I was there with the lovely and talented Frank DiLella who has a piece on Shoshana and her gorge new CD "Superhero" airing on NY1 soon. Look for it! And if you don't yet have the CD, get thee to an iTunery! It's recently become a new workout staple of mine, and I've already lost sixty pounds and my virginity. Thanks, Sho!


So, when I was but a little slip of a high school senior back in *cough into my hand and mumble inaudibly under my breath*, the good old reliable Frank Loesser classic Guys and Dolls was selected as our Senior Musical. (Personally, I’d been campaigning for either something by Sondheim or a one-woman show for myself… but gay sera, sera.) Naturally, I was cast in the lead as Sky Masterson; the smooth-talking, macho high-roller with a strong baritone and a weakness for the ladies. It was a triumphant and long-awaited performance. My teachers all said I reminded them of a young Ava Gardner…

The show has held a special place in my heart ever since my senior year. And now that I’m a senior citizen, it’s back on Broadway once again!

I was recently at a preview of the latest Des McAnuff –directed revival of the show (the most highly-anticipated since my own.) To be fair, there are still two weeks to go before the Nederlander “officially” opens its schmancy new doors to the public. So this is no formal review. I’m simply sharing a few initial thoughts and concerns right out of the gate so that you’ll all know where I stand. (I do this on first dates, too.)

The production (set some years earlier than usual) looks perfectly lovely. An LED screen filling the back wall displays life-like animated backdrops that cinematically sweep the audience from scene to scene (a technique I happen to enjoy.) Unfortunately, many of the scenes lying between those sweeping and rapid transitions are adversely sluggish. Personally, I point the middle finger of blame at casting. Craig Bierko and Kate Jennings Grant make a more than adequate Sky/Sarah combo. Oliver Platt and Lauren Graham as Nathan and Adelaide, however, are not yet doin' it for me. Instead of providing the comedic backbone of the show, the two (primarily from film and television) only get lost in the shuffle of larger-than-life characters surrounding them. On more than one occasion, I did not realize Platt - who's by no means easy to miss - was on stage until he opened his mouth to speak. And at the risk of upsetting all you Gilmore Gays, Lauren Graham simply does not have the musical comedy chops to ultimately do with Adelaide what we need her to; she never quite scratches the itch, if you will.

Allow me to dust off the argument I made regarding that latest (and unnecessary) revival of Grease last year. No, not "WHY??? GOD IN HEAVEN, WHYYY???"... the other argument I made. And that is this: If you're gonna bring back the golden oldies, then please have a damn good reason to do so. Example: If you dare to bring Grease back to Broadway one more time, I want Minnelli playing Sandy, Dame Judi Dench playing Danny and Jesus Christ as Rizzo. Otherwise, don't bother me.

On the bright side, even without a dream cast at the forefront of G&D, there are many reasons to see this incarnation. You'll find them all in the ensemble. Mary Testa, as usual, is retardedly brilliant (for her three minutes of stage time) as General Cartwright; the hilarious Steve Rosen is perfect as Benny Southstreet; and Tituss Burgess (not only cuz he's my BFF and I taught him everything he knows) absolutely steals the whole damn thing with his rendition of "Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat". Unfortunately for the rest of the show, by the end of that number, you feel a little as though you've just seen a bolt of lightning strike a deserted cornfield.

Aaaanyway, there's still work to be done, but I think in time it'll shape up nicely-nicely. Go check it out for yourselves. These have just been the humble opinions of someone who has absolutely never, under any circumstances been wrong about anything, ever. Sue me.

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