The point is often made that early 20th Century Russian playwright Anton Chekhov thought of his plays as comedies, while in the years since they have mostly been played as rueful, melancholy drama. In his new twist on Chekhovian ideas, Christopher Durang has rightly realized that it’s a matter of context – Chekhov’s plays could have probably been funny to early 20th Century Russians! (That Chekhov didn’t find Russian productions of his plays in his own time funny enough is a different and very complex issue).
In Douglas Carter Beane’s new book for the stage “revisical” of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s TV musical Cinderella, our heroine transforms France from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy in one fell swoop! Alright, it’s only a brief moment in the show, which generally hits all of the expected marks of the beloved fairy tale. But it’s a perfect example of the delightful surprises Beane has worked into the show. This new Cinderella is witty, smart and fresh, while still having plenty for the kiddies.
Holland Taylor – currently most famous for playing the monstrous mother Evelyn on TV’s Two and a Half Men – has profound skills as a stage actress. So profound, in fact that she disappears almost entirely into the character of Democratic Texas Governor Ann Richards in the bio-play Ann. This one-woman show, which Taylor also wrote, began as a way for Taylor to understand what it was about this housewife turned politician patriot that affected her – and so many other people – so deeply.
Although she was born and raised in Chicago, Lani Hall understands and communicates the soul of Brazilian music better than many Brazilian artists. She really gets the dark colors that give the oh-so-cool bossa nova its depth – what saxaphonist Stan Getz, the great jazz popularizer of bossa nova, perhaps too dramatically called its “fatalism.” She understands it so well that she can apply it to gringo standards like “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” or “Anything Goes”, making those masterpieces even more dimensional than they already were.
“The Marvelous Marilyn Maye” – it’s a phase that me and my husband have come to say with relish, and we get excited every time we get to see her. Ella Fitzgerald once called Maye “the greatest white female singer in the world”, and I can tell you that’s no exaggeration. There are younger singers who have more powerful voices, but I can think of no other singer who possesses Maye’s combination of interpretive ability, rhythmic verve and vocal range, still the envy of singers many years her junior.