Erroll Garner, The Most Happy Piano: The 1956 Studio Sessions (American Jazz Classics, two CDs). If, like me, you adore Garner’s unselfconsciously joyous art, make haste to order this imported double album containing all twenty-nine of the long-unavailable trio sides that he cut for Columbia in 1956, including a show-stopping eight-minute-long version of “The Man I Love.” The title is on the nose: no jazz musician, not even Louis Armstrong or Fats Waller, has ever made more purely happy music (TT).
Archives for July 2010
In the last of three reports from my recent drama-related travels in California, I review two shows currently being performed at Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Love’s Labour’s Lost and The Lion in Winter. Both are superior. Here’s an excerpt.
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While some of Shakespeare’s plays border on being performer-proof, others need tender loving care to flourish onstage. “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is one of the latter, a relentlessly artificial farce whose comedy is almost entirely verbal and whose hectically bawdy wordplay leaves little room for the richness of characterization that modern audiences expect from a Shakespeare production. Small wonder that “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is mounted so infrequently in America that I’ve reviewed it in this space only once before now. The good news–very, very good news–is that Shakespeare Santa Cruz’s outdoor production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” directed by Scott Wentworth, is a complete success…
Rarely do I get to see a production of a Shakespeare comedy in which each member of a large cast stands out in such high relief. Fold in a heaping helping of zany comic business and you get a show that is not just amusing but wildly, chokingly funny. Then, without warning, the last scene modulates into the shadowy key of doubt, and after the play’s enigmatic closing line (“You that way: we this way”) is spoken, you leave the theater marveling anew at Shakespeare’s matchless ability to surprise….
Indoors on the company’s adjoining main stage, Richard E.T. White has directed a vigorous revival of James Goldman’s “The Lion in Winter,” a play that is now best known in its handsomely cast 1968 film version, which teamed Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn, but is even more rewarding when seen in live performance….
Goldman’s play, in which the strife-ridden marriage of England’s Henry II (Marco Barricelli) and Eleanor of Aquitaine (Kandis Chappell) is portrayed as a drawing-room comedy steeped in wormwood and gall, is a piece of theatrical prestidigitation that juxtaposes a 12th-century setting with 20th-century dialogue (“Is this an audience, a goodnight kiss with cookies or an ambush?”). The trick is to deliver the clever lines not archly but with ram-you-damn-you boldness, and Mr. Barricelli, the company’s artistic director, has it down pat. He gives a leonine, space-filling performance that put me in mind of the young Orson Welles…
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Read the whole thing here.
“Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.”
George Bernard Shaw, The Doctor’s Dilemma
Here’s my list of recommended Broadway, off-Broadway, and out-of-town shows, updated weekly. In all cases, I gave these shows favorable reviews (if sometimes qualifiedly so) in The Wall Street Journal when they opened. For more information, click on the title.
Warning: Broadway shows marked with an asterisk were sold out, or nearly so, last week.
• La Cage aux Folles (musical, PG-13, adult subject matter, reviewed here)
• Fela! * (musical, PG-13, adult subject matter, reviewed here)
• Million Dollar Quartet (jukebox musical, G, reviewed here)
• Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (comedy, G, suitable for bright children, original Broadway production reviewed here)
• Avenue Q (musical, R, adult subject matter and one show-stopping scene of puppet-on-puppet sex, reviewed here)
• The Fantasticks (musical, G, suitable for children capable of enjoying a love story, reviewed here)
• Our Town (drama, G, suitable for mature children, closes Sept. 12, reviewed here)
IN ASHLAND, ORE.:
• Hamlet (Shakespeare, PG-13, closes Oct. 30, reviewed here)
• Ruined (drama, PG-13/R, violence and adult subject matter, closes Oct. 31, reviewed here)
• She Loves Me (musical, G, suitable for children capable of enjoying a love story, closes Oct. 30, reviewed here)
“A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of Hell.”
George Bernard Shaw, Misalliance
George S. Kaufman appears as a panelist on a 1953 episode of This Is Show Business, originally broadcast on CBS. This extremely rare kinescope is thought to be the only surviving sound film of Kaufman:
(This is the latest in a weekly series of arts-related videos that appear in this space each Wednesday.)
“Satire is something that closes on Saturday night.”
George S. Kaufman (quoted in Current Biography 1941)
“Martyrdom, sir, is what these people like: it is the only way in which a man can become famous without ability.”
George Bernard Shaw, The Devil’s Disciple