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Photo by Mark Shelby

Broadway and the Bard 

After recently sitting through eighty minutes of the inscrutable and insufferable Broadway and The Bard, I sheepishly turned to my guest for the evening (a fellow aficionado of entertainment) and asked his opinion. “Well,” he said, “I fell asleep for most of it and when I woke, I kind of just checked out and then remembered that I had to water my plants.” Such commentary does not support a compelling night of theatre. I wholeheartedly agreed with his assessment, though unfortunately, I remained awake for the ordeal.

 

Photo by Carol Rosegg
Photo by Carol Rosegg

I’ve stated in the past my admiration for those who perform solo works. Whether assuming the role of character or just being oneself, there is great vulnerability that one puts on the line. Mr. Cariou’s stage, screen, and television credits are both impressive and extensive and he knows how to command the boards. Sharing his combined love for both Shakespeare and showtunes and, he’s created a hodgepodge of songs and soliloquys supporting those passions. Yet it’s hard not to look at this as a vanity project. At 76, Cariou remains a reliable actor-as evidenced by recent appearances on television’s Blue Bloods and in the Oscar nominated Spotlight– but his vocal range proves too weary for public presentation.

Mr. Cariou describes why he chose his songs and how they relate to his scenes. In great artistry, we don’t see the strings. Here, it looks and feels more like a construction site. Josh Iocavelli’s set, which consists of actual backstage strings and a bust of Shakespeare, does very little to enhance the Elizabethan inspired piece. Cariou fares much better in monologues when he “speaks the speech trippingly on the tongue”, but “if music be the food of love”, you  should probably skip this meal.

Snow White

Photo by Mark Shelby
Photo by Mark Shelby

Company XIV has returned to the age old question, “Who’s the fairest of them all?” I wish that I could report the answer as: “Their current interpretation of Snow White”, but I’m afraid that this honorific is reserved for their last production, Nutcracker Rouge.
Austin McCormick, the founder, choreographer, and director of this scintillating troupe is worthy of the accolades that are lavished on him and his team. With his unique blend of countless dance and music styles, he’s created unique and debaucherous worlds within the Minetta Lane Theatre. His productions of Cinderella and Nutcracker Rouge have played to sold out audiences and his immersive theatrical concept is a breath of fresh air.

Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew, Zane Philstrom, Sarah Cimino, and Kyle Ballantine deserve notable mentions for their respective roles in Lighting and projection, set/costume design, make-up, and graphic designs.

One can’t help feeling, however, that the air in Snow White, feels a bit on the recycled side . While his prior works have found a balance between macabre and merriment, there is a tendency towards tedium here, which results in a void of lighthearted fun and varied moods. For those who have yet to see a Company XIV show, this offering might shine and tempt like a polished apple. For the rest of us who have already indulged, we’d like a bit more sweetness in this piece of fruit.

Photo by Mark Shelby
Photo by Mark Shelby

Rock and Roll Refugee

Photo by Russ Rowland
Photo by Russ Rowland

The name “Genyusha Zelcovicz” doesn’t exactly have  a  ring that most rock stars would seek. Zelcovicz’s mother had the prescience to change it to “Goldie” and in the early 1960s, the unassuming Polish Holocaust survivor found herself bathing in the spotlight of a nightclub, fronting as the lead singer. A few years later, with little English in her vocabulary and the trauma of a unspeakable past, “Goldie” connected with other would-be band members and formed “Goldie and the Gingerbreads.” The first all female rock band was born and from there, “Genya Ravan” (the name she would finally adopt), toured throughout major venues in the United States and in Europe.

Royal Family Productions recently had the good sense and an even better venue to document Ravan’s life in a kick ass staging of her life’s experience in Rock and Roll Refugee. The 90 minute show provides plenty of outstanding vocals, although there is almost as much blatant force in Chris Henry’s book. Though Ravan is far from a subtle character, Henry’s script might benefit from more nuance. The legacy and stories shared by Holocaust survivors are vital and inspirational, but rarely are they accompanied by driving guitars and drums. In this tale, “rock” is both a metaphorical coping mechanism, and a way of life.

This short lived production played in a spacious,rustic space on West 46th street. Evoking the ambience of a CBGB like club, the dingy, unexpected setting of a 2nd floor church perfectly served this well acted story. It didn’t hurt that the entire ensemble powerfully sang the roof off the place . With the real life subject in attendance on opening night, the energy was even more palpable. Let’s hope for another staging soon.

Photo by Russ Rowland
Photo by Russ Rowland

For tickets and/or information:

Broadway and the Bard on Theater Row (West 42nd between 9th and 10th)

Snow White at Minetta Lane Theatre (18 Minetta Lane)

Rock and Roll Refugee played its final performance on Feb. 15th