Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What's in a name?

Tonight Linda, Sue, David and I saw a most remarkable play about a group of trans-gender persons who support each other, love each other and fight with each other. Southern Comfort by Dan Collins (Book and Lyrics) and Julianne Wick Davis (Music), conceived by Robert DuSold and Thomas Caruso is playing at Barrington Stage's St. Germain Theatre. Robert DuSold conceived and developed the transfer of Kate Davis's documentary Southern Comfort  to the musical stage.

This musical drama knocked me out, to put it mildly. This is probably because I have been involved with the work of GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders) in obtaining the recent Supreme Court decision to declare DOMA unconstitutional and bring same sex marriage into full legality. GLAD also works with trans-gender persons, trying to get fair treatment in an un-fair world. This story is remarkable, dramatic, and totally absorbing.  You cannot leave the theatre unmoved.

The story involves a group of persons, each of whom is in some stage of changing gender.

Annette O'TooleThe incredible Annette O'Toole portrays 'Robert', a woman who has gone through part of the transition to being a man and who is dying of ovarian cancer.  Her involvement in this role is mind-boggling.

Jeff McCarthy plays 'Lola', a man trying to decide if he wants to go through with the transformation. He is 'Robert's' girlfriend. He is good in the part, but having seen him portray Sweeney Todd in a previous Barrington Stage production made it a little more difficult for me to accept him in this role.

Todd Cerveris plays 'Sam' who was born Barbara and is part way to becoming a man.

Lizzie Hagstedt is a Storeyteller and plays the bass fiddle.

Natalie Joy Johnson is 'Carly', a man who has gone through the entire process of becoming a woman, including the sexual surgery.

Jeffrey Kuhn is 'Jackson', a woman who has decided to have the complete surgery but in the end decides against it.

David M. Lutken is a Storyteller and guitar player, as well as playing several small roles.

Robin Skye portrays 'Melanie', a woman who is in love with 'Jackson', even though he is not yet fully male.

Joel Waggoner is a Storyteller and violinist.

Elizabeth Ward Land is a Storyteller and plays percussion.

Every member of the cast acts and sings with an intensity that is almost frightening. The problems of the trans-gender community is brought forth in violent detail. This is a night in the theatre I will not soon forget.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Wonderful Town!!

Tonight Alice, Sue, David and I saw a fabulous performance of Leonard Bernstein's On the Town at Barrington Stage. Betty Comden and Adolph Green wrote the witty and sophisticated libretto. It was based on the earlier ballet Fancy Free.

 From start to finish it was obvious that this was going to be a block-buster. The cast, which included Clyde Alves, Deanna Doyle, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Elizabeth Stanley, Alysha Umphress, and the remarkable Tony Yazbeck, were all top notch, especially Mr. Yazbeck, who has an amazing set of pipes! But they all sang and danced the choreography of Joshua Bergasse (based on the original of Jerome Robbins) with elan.

The story of three sailors who have a twenty-four hour pass in New York City, their adventures and mis-adventures, is still fun after all these years. This energetic young cast brought us right back to the 1940's with its wild music and hep-cat attitude. The direction by John Rando and the musical direction by Darren. R. Cohen was superb.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Linda Lavin

Tonight David and I heard another one of the last of the 'Red Hot Mamas', Linda Lavin, in her one woman show at Barrington Stage. A slightly younger version of Barbara Cook, Elaine Stritch, and Tyne Daly, she gave us an energetic concert of songs that she had sung on Broadway as well as standards.

Her voice has held up pretty well through her seventy-five years and she still looks darned good.

Her combo consisted of the incomparable Billy Stritch, as music director and pianist, John Hart on guitar, Tom Hubbard on bass, and Linda's husband, Steve Bakunas on drums. They make a great team. Late in the show she introduced Aaron Weinstein, a jazz violinist, whose playing was, unfortunately, not amplified well and of whom, therefore, I can give no report of his abilities.

She opened with a song that has been a favorite of mine from The Mad Show. It is a spoof on 'The girl from Ipanema. Only this is the boy from 'Tacarembo La Tumbe Del Fuego Santa Malipas Zacatecas La Junta Del Sol Y Cruz' who moves to 'Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerych-
wyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch' in Wales. She delivers it in a slightly flat, unexpressive voice; a take-off on Astrid Gilberto. It is a show stopper.

Ms. Lavin wanders about the stage, often turning her back on the audience to sing to each of her combo in turn. Effective but a little odd, since she is, after all, the star. Her vocal delivery is fairly monochromatic; none of the nuance of Amanda McBroom. But she brings each number off with energy.

It was an enjoyable evening. Tomorrow night we will return to Barrington Stage for their production of On the Town by Leonard Bernstein. Two in a row, then off to Italy on Wednesday.