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!
I actually liked this! My first bel canto dramma tragico – that is, early-19th Century Italian tragic opera – and I enjoyed it very much! I say that with surprise since my previous experiences with bel canto were comic operas, which left me unimpressed. Just way too lightweight for me, even though I generally prefer comedy to tragedy. Lucia di Lammermoor, though, is a full meal, packed with strong emotions and suitably soaring music.
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.
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.
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!