Tag: Paula Scrofano

Review: Mary Poppins (Marriott Theatre)

Summer Naomi Smart as Mary Poppins in Marriott Theatre's "Mary Poppins," directed by Gary Griffin. (photo credit: Peter Coombs)

       
      
Mary Poppins 

Music/Lyrics by Richard and Robert Sherman,
    George Stiles and Anthony Drewe
Book by Julian Fellowes
Directed by Gary Griffin
at Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire (map)
thru Jan 5  |  tickets: $40-$48   |  more info
       
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November 10, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: Oklahoma! (Lyric Opera of Chicago)

Ashley Brown and John Cudia star as Laurey and Curly in Lyric Opera's "Oklahoma!" by Rodgers and Hammerstein, directed by Gary Griffin. (photo credit: Dan Rest)        
       
Oklahoma! 

Music by Richard Rodgers 
Book and Lyrics by Roger Hammerstein II
Directed by Gary Griffin
Conducted by James Lowe
at Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker (map)
thru May 19  |  tickets: $42-$153   |  more info  
       
$27 tickets available here!
    
        
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May 6, 2013 | 1 Comment More

Review: Sunset Boulevard (Drury Lane Theatre)

Christine Sherrill as Norma Desmond in Drury Lane Theatre's "Sunset Boulevard" by Andrew Lloyd Webber, directed by William Osetek. (photo credit: Brett Beiner)        
       
Sunset Boulevard 

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber 
Book/lyrics by Don Black, Christopher Hampton
Directed by William Osetek
Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook Terrace (map)
thru March 24  |  tickets: $35-$46   |  more info
       
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February 6, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: My One and Only (Marriott Theatre)

Andrew Lupp and Summer Naomi Smart star in Marriott Theatre's "My One and Only" by George and Ira Gershwin, directed by Tammy Mader. (photo credit: Peter Coombs)        
      
My One and Only 

Written by Peter Stone and Timothy S. Mayer
Music by George and Ira Gershwin
Directed and choreographed by Tammy Mader
at Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire (map)
thru Jan 6  |  tickets: $40-$48   |  more info
       
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November 20, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: 42nd Street (Theatre at the Center)

Paula Scrofano and Dale Benson star in Theatre at the Center's "42nd Street", directed by William Pullinsi. (photo credit: Johnny Knight)        
       
42nd Street  

By Harry Warren (music), Al Dubin (lyrics) 
Book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble
Directed by William Pullinsi 
Theatre at the Center, Munster, IN (map)
thru Oct 21  |  tickets: $38-$42   |  more info
       
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September 20, 2012 | 1 Comment More

Review: The Sound of Music (Drury Lane)

Katie Huff, Zachary Keller, Laura Nelson, Ben Parkhill, Arielle Dayan, Emily Leahy, Julia Baker       
      
The Sound of Music 

Written by Richard Rodgers (music)
and Oscar Hammerstein II (lyrics)
Book by Howard Lindsay, Russell Crouse
Directed by Rachel Rockwell
Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook Terrace  (map)
thru Jan 8  |  tickets: $35-$45   |  more info

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October 28, 2011 | 2 Comments More

Review: My Fair Lady (Paramount Theatre)

     
Andrea Prestinario and Nathan M. Hosner - My Fair Lady Paramount Theatre
My Fair Lady
 

Written by Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Loewe 
Directed by Jim Corti
at Paramount Theatre, Aurora (map)
thru Oct 2  |  tickets: $35-$47  |  more info

Check for half-price tickets

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September 18, 2011 | 0 Comments More

Review: Broadway Bound (Drury Lane Oakbrook)

  
  

Cue the laughs

  
  

Max Polski, Mike Nussbaum, Carmen Roman, Jason Karasev, Paula Scrofano and Richard McWilliams in Drury Lane Oakbrook's "Broadway Bound" by Neil Simon.

   
Drury Lane Oakbrook presents
   
   
Broadway Bound
   
Written by Neil Simon
Directed by David New
at Drury Lane Oakbrook, Oakbrook (map)
through July 31  |  tickets: $35-$46  |  more info

Reviewed by Lawrence Bommer

There’s a telling scene near the end of Broadway Bound where young Eugene Jerome, the fictitious, future Neil Simon, raptly listens to his mother. First shyly, then rhapsodically, she retells a familiar recollection: how one special night George Raft, slick, sophisticated and notorious, actually asked her to dance, how they eased across a spellbound dance floor and how young Kate became, too briefly, the envy of the neighborhood.

Jason Karasev and Max Polski in Drury Lane's "Broadway Bound" by Neil Simon.Simon not only shapes the memory like a living statue, he shows us Eugene’s amazement that his mother ever had a vibrant life apart from him. More importantly, Eugene is caught in the act of becoming a writer: This time around he doesn’t just hear Kate’s oft-told tale, he transforms it into an imaginary play by acting out audience reactions and punching home the reverie’s big moments.

All the give and take between life and art is right there in this seminal scene.

Capping Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues, Broadway Bound, the third installment in Simon’s semi-autobiographical trilogy, is in many ways the most revealing. Simon’s "Portrait of the Artist as A Young Gag Writer" depicts a young, contagiously hopeful Eugene and his eager-beaver brother Stanley embarking on a career as comedy writers at the very moment their Brooklyn-bound family is falling apart: Their grandparents have separated, their parents are soon to split, and at the end Eugene and Stanley – no longer stockroom and retail clerks, but salaried serial writers for CBS Radio – leave home for Manhattan. (Again Eugene acts as narrator; it makes good sense, given the writer’s journey depicted by Biloxi Blues.)

It’s almost comically cruel, this Chekhov-like juxtaposition of the sons’ callow careerism with the rapid disintegration of the Jerome household. It should be sad but there’s too much life to it.

Equally honest is the way this domestic drama refuses to fob off neat solutions, let alone a happy ending. The story builds by relentlessly denying any expectations of any joyous, last-minute reconciliation. At the same time the most positive force in the play, Eugene’s ambition to strike it rich as a radio writer, is nothing more than a dramatic promissory note.  It’s a harrowing picture of a past that’s rapidly burning out and a future that stays beyond reach.  Fortunately, the comparatively little of the play that happens in the present tense is delightful, by no means the usual formulaic "simple Simon."

It’s the late 40s and, whether he knows it or not, young Eugene, a hardened veteran of family squabbles (Brighton Beach Memoirs) and World War II (Biloxi Blues), is slowly turning his life into art. With their mother’s blessing, Eugene and Stanley want to be comic writers; the father just wants them to work hard, as he must in a job he loathes, and not complain. Rich with a writer’s details gleaned from sharp-eyed observation, these family portraits resonate with the charm of memory and the harshness of the actual. The now-rich Aunt Blanche returns, desperate to reunite her parents. But Eugene’s Trotsky-loving grandfather refuses to join his wife in Florida, certain no decent socialist could ever submit to such self-indulgence.

At the same time Eugene’s mother Kate is helpless to keep her brood from slipping away or even to get them to show up for dinner (a telling difference from Brighton Beach Memoirs).

Instead, Kate watches her marriage take the same downward course as her mother’s. Husband Jack, burnt out from years of dead-end work as a cutter of women’s raincoats, is unfaithful and, no Jezebel, the other woman is a middle-aged, dying widow who simply asks Jack questions that make him see everything differently. So Kate is left to agonize over a lifetime’s sacrifices, including one of a life of her own; well, they seemed so important at the time…

If Kate looks back, Eugene and Stanley are trying to peel the wrappings from their future. In the play’s most original scene we see Eugene and Stanley working against a looming deadline as they desperately search for a surefire formula for flawless comedy. (An exhausted Stanley remarks, "I love being a writer–it’s just the writing I can’t take.") At last Stanley finds it: people laugh when a character’s overwhelming need for something is frustrated by some undeniable conflict. Their example–a man with a busted back and a woman with a broken leg that can’t close a window in winter– isn’t screamingly funny, but it contains that crucial element, other people’s pain, that Simon will exploit in many, many comedies to come.

     
Paula Scrofano and Mike Nussbaum Carmen Roman, Max Poski, and Mike Nussmaum
Carmen Roman and Richard McWilliams Paul Scrofano Max Polski

Certainly the play practices what it preaches: Hilarious conflict between art and life and between life and life erupts when the family gather to hear the brothers’ first half-hour broadcast. It doesn’t help that the grandfather despises humor: art should be ”about something,” he argues, preferably the coming victory of the proletariat. Disagreeing, the Jerome brothers know that writers must write about what they know, in this case their family.

But when the Jeromes see themselves as the butt of national jokes, especially when the radio dad is described as a garment cutter who’s "into lady’s pajamas," it’s no laugh a minute. Interpreting the crack as an accusation of adultery, Jack reviles the boys for disgracing the family by hanging out their dirty laundry. Stanley retorts that their father dirtied it himself. Of course both are right, which is just what makes it hurt.

The moment represents Eugene’s first encounter with the treacherous power of art over life. But he soon learns that other family friends who listened to the broadcast thought the boys were spoofing ”their families.” So art can transcend its inspiration after all. The play ends in a series of Chekhovian farewells.

Setting aside the art vs. life dialectic, Broadway Bound is just a play that wants to please. Drury Lane Oakbrook’s production certainly does, thanks to the uncondescending compassion with which director David New colors Simon’s broken home. Collette Pollard‘s cut-away two-story stage is a nostalgically appointed, grown-up doll’s house while Linda Roethke‘s period costumes eloquently tell their time.

Mike Nussbaum Gangly Max Polski nicely balances Eugene’s coltish energy and hunger for the big time against his helplessness to prevent his parents’ breakup. At first defensively glib and perky as beleaguered Kate, Carmen Roman eventually–and dramatically–hardens herself. Despite a nearly perpetual frown, this mother faces her hard times with unforced grace and no small residue of love, and when she recalls the close encounter with George Raft the whole stage glows.

From the start Richard McWilliams emotionally isolates the bitter, lonely father ("There’s no place for me"); where almost everyone else reaches out he’s resolutely pulling in. In contrast, Jason Karasev as needy Stanley shows us all too well the price he’s paid for the father who isn’t there for him. In a sharply etched cameo, Paula Scrofano conveys aunt Blanche’s current crisis: She won’t feel guilty because she’s rich.

The most cunning work is Chicago legend Mike Nussbaum‘s foxy performance as the sardonic, all too literal, grandfather, a man who can tell a joke without getting it. No doubt this boiler-plated curmudgeon is the hardest audience Eugene ever played to–and the best discipline possible for a future king of Broadway.

The play’s one problem remains constant since 1986: Too often Simon answers questions we never asked and dodges ones that we do: Just what do the boys learn about the danger of life imitating life from their embarrassing exposure of their family on national radio? Why do they turn to comedy as a distraction from the family crises? (Why not woodworking?) Why do they need to make us laugh? There’d be some great answers there. Just asking.

  
  
Rating: ★★★
  
  

Max Polski, Mike Nussbaum, Carmen Roman, Jason Karasev and Richard McWilliams

    All photos by Brett Beiner


June 18, 2011 | 0 Comments More