|From ‘Gershwinner’ to Reality Drama|
BY BRUCE APAR
The Brothers Gershwin – musical George, verbal Ira – were a pair of creative geniuses for the price of one, a songwriting team who prodigiously authored Great American Songbook standards that have not only endured but rudely remind us “they just don’t write ‘em like that anymore,” more’s the pity. Their work was as inspired and romantic as it was accessible in its sentiment and unerring in their melodies.
Director Ray Roderick makes good use of their talents by weaving together more than 40 Gershwin tunes in a thoroughly pleasing production titled ‘S Wonderful, now through March 25 at the wonderful Westchester Broadway Theater in Elmsford, the premier regional stage in the Hudson Valley and the only dinner theater of note.
The young, multi-talented cast of five makes this high-energy musical revue a thoroughly engaging Gershwin-ner. Watching both Blakely Slaubough, a Joel Greyish presence with his bantam physicality and boyish bounce, and the nimble comedienne Stacey Harris is a hoot. As the show progresses, their antics combined with the equally impressive singing, moving and mugging chops of Deidre Haren, Sean A. Watkins and Mary Millben had the couple next to me helplessly singing along with several of the numbers. When it’s Gershwin magic interpreted by rising talents, it’s hard not to want to get into the act.
As someone who has a single theater musical on my resume, which makes me dangerous, I could admire the achievements of all five performers undergoing numerous costume changes, production number transitions, complex blocking (where to be positioned on stage at any given moment), and synchronizing the footwork counts of the choreography (excellently essayed by Vince Pesce) to the musical bars of each song. Nice work if you can master it, and very hard work if you can get it.
It’s also fun to watch musical director Ken Lundie, who has to be a Liberace devotee for all the fun he has lording over the ivories and striking up the band (oh, right, that was Gerswhin contemporary Irving Berlin).
If you’re not familiar with the Gershwin repertoire, you really are and just may not know it: how’s “I’ve Got Rhythm,” “Rhapsody in Blue,” “Embraceable You,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” and the title song, for starters?
WBT is a great value, with a very satisfying dinner menu serving to complement the appetizing entertainment on stage.
After this show’s final performance Mar. 25, opening Mar. 29 is Legally Blonde, then Hairspray starting May 3. For tickets to ‘S Wonderful or any of the other shows, call (914) 592-2222 or go to www.BroadwayTheater.com.
I’ve known Yorktowner Barry Malawer for years. He’s a fellow congregant and a successful real estate broker with Coldwell Banker who invented his own house-selling software program on his iPad.
In his spare time, this dervish of creative energy writes plays. He also gets them staged, no mean feat. (How many people do we all know who are writing a movie, book or play that never sees the light of day? I’m one of them, so join the club, bub.)
Elyse and I saw his latest work, “Dead Dog Park,” in its first of three weekends at Philipstown Depot Theater in Garrison Landing, which itself was a joyful discovery for us, tucked in a pristine corner of Putnam County that time has only lightly, and lovingly, touched.
The theater has steep stadium seating that overlooks the floor-level stage, so there’s not a bad line of sight in the house. For his premise, Mr. Malawer ripped a headline from the news about a young African-American in Yonkers who allegedly was pushed out a second-story window by a police officer. The real-life turn of events ended with the officer innocent of any wrongdoing, but the playwright here bends the incident to his willful and insightful exploration of morality, ethics, the justice system, the “blue shield of silence,” racism, and domestic relations under the duress of media glare.
At a happenstance pre-curtain dinner we enjoyed with Barry and wife Jill at The Stadium on Route 9 (highly recommended dining establishment with a treasure trove of sports memorabilia that will make both young and older eyes widen and jaws drop), the author said actors like his dialogue because it emulates how people actually talk. That’s certainly true in this work, where the exchanges sound spontaneous yet contain the right measure of dramatic pacing and audience engagement.
It’s a terse one-act play, clocking at about 75 minutes, and the actors are superb, starting with lead Rick Apicella as Rob McDonald, the accused officer. Also standouts are Mark Colvson as prosecutor John Jones and Tracey McAllister and Sharonne, the fallen young man’s mother. They are ably supported by Stavros Adamides as Rob’s patrolman partner, Suzanne Blair as Mrs. McDonald, and Ildemar Lagares as Tyler, the young man who, in the climactic scene, meets his pursuer.
Worth noting is Chris Nowak’s clever, efficient set design, using three-sided, tall panels as scene backdrops and surfaces on which both urban and interior still and moving images are projected. It opens up the imagination to extend well beyond the compact stage space.
“Dead Dog Park” (the actual name of the upper Manhattan public space where the incident occurred) runs through March 18. For more information, and to order tickets, go to www.deaddogpark.com.