Just about everything about this show is charming. To begin with, the underlying concept: the play is indirectly about Barbra Streisand’s “elegant barn”, the main subject of her book A Passion for Design. That basement includes a street and fake “shops” to display her collections. Playwright Jonathan Tolins was so tickled by the idea of those fake shops having a real shopkeeper that he created this one-man show about “Alex More” a struggling L.A. actor who takes exactly that job.
This is an above-average musical, but only slightly above average. The ideas behind it are certiainly intrigruging, but are inconsistently developed. Everyone in the creative team has done solid, sometimes even inventive craftswork – all in all, Hands on A Hardbody has some really great parts, but is finally less than the sum of those parts.
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.
Jackie – a theatrical dissection of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and the myths surrounding her – is without a doubt the best high art solo performance piece I’ve ever seen or read. And, because of love affairs with high art and solo performance, I’ve seen and read more of those than you might think.