a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Camp’

Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Patience” Delights at Symphony Space

I had a truly magical, joyous experience stumbling in to the Gilbert & Sullivan Players production of the little-seen “Patience” at the Symphony Space in the deadening cold that New York is now experiencing. I didn’t think I could ever laugh or respond, it was such a frigid night. But “Patience” rewarded my patience by having me laugh myself warm and silly at the lyrics’ surprising, sharp, satiric wit. It was the essence of camp, and an utter delight.

The G&S Players are a group of very dedicated Savoyards,as the ardent admirers of Gilbert & Sullivan’s marvelously giddy operettas are called. And these super singers have dedicated large portions of their life to appearing in, and TOURING, these wonderful masterpieces of wit and nonsense.

“Patience” is rarely done and may be the least known of the G&S canon. It was first produced by the  Richard D’Oyly Carte at the Opera Comique in London on April 23, 1881 and on October 10 it transferred to the Savoy Theater which Carte had just built.  Hence, the term Savoyards. “Patience” was also the first production to be entirely lit by electric light. It ran and ran.

I had seen a production of it by the English National Opera in London in the early 70s, but though magnificently sung, it wasn’t funny at all. I don’t think those tres serieux opera singers got the joke. But the Gilbert and Sullivan players sure do. I couldn’t stop laughing.

The character of Bunthorne, “a fleshly poet” was thought to be based on Oscar Wilde himself, and it was a satire of the whole Aesthetic Movement, which was all the rage in England at the time. But Wilde himself took no offense at its’ depiction and joined with D’Oyly Carte to go on a publicity tour to promote “Patience” and the Aesthetic movement all across America, where it hadn’t really ever caught on.

Oscar knew great PR when he saw it, and seized the opportunity, arriving in America and stating famously to customs “I have nothing to but my genius.”

The plot of “Patience” has two rival poets, one Reginald Bunthorne, the other Archibald Grosvenor, who in this production looks like Lord Alfred Douglas, Wilde’s young, notoriously blond and good-looking young lover, sought after by a chorus of “20 Lovesick Maidens We”, who reject the 20 Dragoons they are supposedly engaged to, because of their adulation of Bunthorne. Then in Act II the fickle maidens switch their affections to Grosvenor, played & sung marvelously by David Macaluso. The slim James Mills camped himself dizzy in the role of Bunthorne, not a “fleshly” poet, but an athletically lithe, hilarious one. His “Magnet and the Silver Churn” was terrific fun.

In the reduced scope of this  production on the tiny stage of the Symphony Space on Upper Broadway, I counted only about 14 maidens, and the pit orchestra was also ONSTAGE. Supposedly hidden behind a black-draped panel, which at one point fell down, revealing the suitably embarrassed conductor and musicians. As I said, it was the essence of camp. And the aesthetic of camp allows for this.

Patience is the virginal village milk-maid whose affections, both poets vie for. In this production, however it was the basso profundo contralto actress/singer playing the plain, aging, massive Lady Jane ,Cáitlín Burke,who really knocked my socks off. She has the wonderful Act Two opening aria, accompanying herself on a cello, and lamenting her fate as she ages and “more corpulent grow I,” as she waits for Bunthorne to return her unrequited love.”There will be too much of me  in the by and by.”

We can all relate. I haven’t laughed so much in a theater in years!

Provincetown Film Festival ’13 Wrap Up!

PROVINCETOWN FILM FESTIVAL 15th ANNIVERSARY Wrap-Up

Epstein/Friedman Triumph TWICE with Double Whammy of “Lovelace” &”The Battle of AMFAR” ~ Almodovar, “Fruitvale” and Divine also score

Oscar-winning documentary filmmakers Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman did the seemingly impossible at the 15th Anniversary of the Provincetown International Film Festival, which just wrapped. They opened this smart, exciting, essential & growing film festival with their first narrative feature film “Lovelace” about the ’70’s porn star Linda Lovelace of “Deep Throat” fame and followed it up with a terrific doc about the AIDS organization “The Battle of AMFAR.” Both were superb.

“Lovelace” was my favorite film of PIFF, boasting a surprising trio of Oscar-worthy performances from Amanda Seyfried (“Les Miz,””Mama Mia”) as Linda Lovelace herself,and Peter Sarsgaard (“An Education”) is incredibly believable in his tough-to-take role as Lovelace’s porn producer/husband Chuck Traynor. The triumvirate of great star turns is completed by an unrecognizable Sharon Stone as Lovelace’s hard-nosed Catholic mother. I never thought Seyfried had the dramatic chops, and I, like Harvey Weinstein I was told, did not realize that it was Sharon Stone as the mother, until the end credits rolled, and I nearly jumped out of my skin!

Stone has been nominated once before for “Casino”, but didn’t win, and now I think she will have another strong shot for sure, as Seyfried and Sarsgaard will, too, be up for Oscar consideration again. And this time, as a Best Supporting Actress, she could actually win. And neither Seyfried nor the worthy-as-hell, overdue Sarsgaard has ever been nominated either. Also, Radius the new Weinstein Co. off-shoot is repping this terrific film.

A biopic of a porn star? I didn’t think I’d like it, but “Lovelace” and Seyfried and Sarsgaard and filmmakers Epstein and Friedman draw you in utterly and make you CARE. And it’s funny, too, when it needs to be, and tragic as Lovelace’s story gets darker and darker. And with Harvey Weinstein in the mix behind them, look out!

“The Battle of AMFAR” is about the founders, the unlikely duo of research scientist Dr. Mathilde Krim and superstar-turned-activist Elizabeth Taylor. who joined forces to bring about a critical change in the perception of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in 1985. This terrific doc that sped by at a lightening pace was ALSO directed by Epstein and Friedman, who also directed “Lovelace”! Is there anything these two titans of cinema can’t do? It was definitely their time to shine at this year’s charming sea-side Festival.

The Weinstein Co. was also behind the laceratingly powerful racial drama “Fruitvale Station”, a true story about an innocent African American youth, 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who is wrongly slain by police on New Year’s Eve 2008. Unknown actor Michael B. Jordan has to carry virtually every scene of the film, and he does, but it is Oscar Winner Octavia Spenser(“The Help”) who outdoes herself here as Grant’s mother.

Grant is no plaster saint and his mother knows it. We are shown flashback scenes of Grant in prison, when his mother comes to visit and tells him she won’t be coming to see him anymore and refuses to hug him. We see her try to control her wild, pothead son, when he gets out, and she tries to keep him on the straight and narrow, and most monumentally, we see her grieving when he is shot-to-death by police. Octavia Spenser meets every challenge of this bravura, heart-breaking role that pulls out all the stops, and then some.

Having won both the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic feature and the Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic film at 2013’s Sundance Film Festival, “Fruitvale Station”, the subway station where the tragedy occurs, seems primed to compete across the categories as last year’s Sundance favorite “Beasts of the Southern Wild” did. And with Harvey as its’ producer, you know it will be a significant player this awards season.

An enchanting Film Festival by the sea, picturesque Provincetown is surrounded on three sides by water, and boasted a particularly strong slate of docs this year, with “Casting By” about the late, great, legendary casting director Marion Dougherty. Who at one time, as Tom Donahue’s film amply illustrates, seemed to be running the film industry in the ’70s. Dougherty speaks for herself fortunately in many insightful interviews, where it is revealed that she single-handedly talked directors Peter Friedkin into casting Gene Hackman in “The French Connection” and also persuaded John Schlesinger to cast Jon Voight in “Midnight Cowboy”! Try to imagine those two films without those two great performances, both of which won Best Actor & Best Film. Dougherty became so powerful that she turned Casting which was a male-dominated field, into the female-centric one it is today, as she constantly hired women as her assistants. But Casting Director don’t get Oscars. They don’t even have their own category, even as Dougherty and others fought for accreditation. The all-powerful DGA wants to make sure the power stays with The Director and not The CASTING Director. If the public only knew! And “Casting By” at least shines a bright, benevolent light on this tricky situation.

Another doc that knocked my socks off was “I Am Divine” about the late drag performer and cult icon of John Waters’ films “Pink Flamingos”, “Female Trouble” and “Hairspray” among many others. Filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz emphasizes what a good actor Divine was underneath all the make-up and gowns and that he was poised to have a substantial character as a male character actor when he died of a massive heart attack at age 40. Too young. Too soon. And like with the unlikely heroine of “Lovelace”, Schwarz makes you care about his too-chubby protagonist, who just couldn’t stop eating. Or acting. Or acting out.

Waters was there to speak about the film and his late star. Noting that when people said that they often saw Divine walking around Provincetown in kaftans back in the Day, Waters said, “That’s a lie! Divine took cabs!”

And last but not least there is Pedro Almodovar’s HILARIOUS new comedy “I’m So Excited!” which is already one of my favorite Almodovar films. The hottest ticket in one of the smallest theaters (The Art House 2), I had to line up in a Rush Line for AN HOUR before the film started! But I got in! And what a delight it was!

I don’t remember Almodovar doing such an out-and-out comedy since “Woman on the Verge…” or “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down”. Pedro, always a scamp as well as a camp, lets the bobby pins fall where they may as he lets his hair down in the wildest situation imaginable. A plane is stalled flying over Toledo, where it circles and circle and circles. The three tres gay male flight attendants have drugged all the passengers in coach and are left to entertain the first class passengers with campy numbers like “I’m So Excited”, which is a music video-like gem. Pedro could direct musicals, too, if he wanted. I couldn’t stop laughing!

Penelope Cruz and Antonia Banderas make hilarious brief cameo appearances at the beginning of the film. And I was particularly fond of returning Almodovar regular Lola Duenas, “Sole” Penelope’s illegal hair-dresser sister in “Volver”, as a wacky psychic who predicts that she’ll lose her virginity on this flight. What do you think? Hilarity ensues! Don’t miss it!

Oscar Gets “Amour”

Well, this certainly is news! Austria has decided that “Amour” is going to be its’ official submission to the Best Foreign Film race this coming Oscar season. Since it’s by a German director, who I LOVE, Michael Haneke, and maybe it’s German-Austrian financed although the two octogenarian leads,  who are winning raves, act in French, this makes “Amour” kosher. And definitely eligible for a Best Foreign Film nomination and perhaps win.

This is despite Jeffrey Wells at www.hollywood-elsewhere.com not liking a whole hell of a lot.

And to top that off Sony Pictures Classics is deciding to open it in Dec. RIGHT in the heat of the Oscar season. I know, I know. It’s freezing in New York at that time of year, and this is hardly your Christmas-y picture. But SPC, as I’ll now call them, are throwing down the Oscar gauntlet(is that a mixed metaphor?) going full court press with this one.

Although Michael Haneke only gives interviews in German, and the two stars are yes-for-real are in their 80s. But have Oscar buzz will travel. So we’ll be seeing them, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva stateside around the holidays. Or at least I will be seeing them, I hope, in their press tour.

I love SPC’s taste in movies. Last year,  they had “Midnight in Paris” and while it got a bunch of nominations in many categories and won in Best Original Screenplay, they did not move any of the many wonderful performers in that movie from the sidelines to center stage. Like for instance, Corey Stoll as Hemingway, Marion Cotillard as the Muse of many centuries and Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein. Not to mention Owen Wilson’s, astonishing lead performance and Rachel McAdams as his blonde bitch of a fiancée.

Although Owen did get a Golden Globe nomination in the Musical or Comedy category, he lost out to Jean Dujardin for “The Artist.” And who could’ve stopped THAT express train once it left the station???

I can’t stand Wes Anderson movies, so I only go to them, if dragged so I haven’t seen “Moonrise Kingdom” yet. But I guess I’ll have to at some point. I hate when straight men try to do camp. Which is basically what his great “Style” is. Stolen from the Homosexual Handbook. I ought to know. I helped write it back in The Day.

And tomorrow I’m actually going to see “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”  I’ll let you know if I think all the who-ha at Sundance and Cannes was justified.

“Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” on Bway! Wonderful! Gay-Fun-der-full!

I’m baaaaaaaaack! And tingling with the excitement, joy and delight of a great new GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY musical, “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” which is landing on Broadway at the Palace theater right about NOW! KA-BOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s wonderful! Gay-Fun-derful! “Priscilla” explodes like a glitter ball bomb, scattering confetti and good will for all and is even MORE over the Top than the classic queer film version. I know that doesn’t sound possible, but it is, believe me, it is!

Subtle, this isn’t. But how could it be anything else? It’s a non-stop musical with numbers from the ’70s, and some from the ’80s(Madonna’s) and none whatsoever from ABBA.

As it was in the movie.

And let’s not mince words, Madoona’s songs are NOT an acceptable substitute for ABBA’s which are currently STILL in heavy usage on Broadway in “Mama Mia” a show that seems to have no end. Hence the switch to the Material Grrrl’s, er, material.

And the ’80’s just don’t have the same camp resonance as the ’70s and the film of “Priscilla” was pure ’70s, and therefore morely truly, regally camp.

Madonna’s songs sadly make the whole show seem, well, er, tackier than the film version.

But Madge, as she’s called here, will just HAVE to do, because everything else about the show is just spectacular. With the emphasis on SPECK-TACKLE!

The costumes for the film, if memory serves, won an Oscar, and the gorgeous, eye-popping gowns and wigswigswigs(by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner) and will probably do the same  thing when the Tonys roll around, and guess what? It’s TONY SEASON! Yes, already the plays are opening every other second every which way you look. On Broadway And Off. And it’s wonderful that they are!

And you hope that they’re all gonna be wonderful. And not all of them will be. But “Priscilla” sure is!

The three leads were all unknowns before the curtain went up, but now they’re bona fide Broadway stars. In my book! And turn in such wonderful performances they almost make you forget the great performances of Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce. YES, GUY PEARCE, who all sizzled  in full drag on the screen. Yes, “The King’s Speech”, “Momento”s Guy Pearce, who is now a tres butch Hollywood A-Lister!

And I bet all three of these great gays, er, guys, will all be nominees come Tony Time, which as I said, begins NOW! Will Swenson, as the “straight” one, who has a previous wife and child. An incredibly touching Luke Mennikus brings the audience to tears as the lonely son Benji.

Benji provides the “plot” of “Priscilla” this time more heavily emphasized than in the movie. Benji wants to meet his absent father. Even if he does wear “purple pants.”

And Benji and his Mom are located in the middle of nowhere, in the Back of the Back of Beyond of the Australian Out Back, Alice Springs.

And Tick  a.k.a. Mitzi is reluctant to make the, er, confrontation, and takes old friend, Bernadette, a stately, classy transexual along for support( and back -up singing). Bernadette is (Terence Stamp in the movie) played to purr-fection by the Original Aussie(and London, and Toronto) Bernadette, Tony Sheldon. Who is staring at a Best Actor in a Musical Tony Nomination. And Will Swenson may be, too. After all, Douglas Hodge won in this category just last year as Zaza in the recent revival of “La Cage Aux Folles.”

Or will they put Will  Swenson in the Supporting Actor in a Musical category? Ah, but then he’d be up against the,er, stiffest competition of all, the break-out star Nick Adams, as the loud, motor-mouth Felicia, who pretty much steals the show, with one show stopping number after the other. Almost too numerous to list.

And I kept thinking I’d see his handsome face(and fizz-eeek!) before and the program notes reveal we’ve seen Nick strutting his/her stuff in the chorus of the latest “La Cage” and also “A Chorus Line”s revival and also “The Pirate Queen.” Yes, I’m such a Broadway baby I even survived “The Pirate Queen” and no, the studly/femme Nick Adams DIDN’T play the title role. But THIS TIME!

He arguably has the role of his/her career making bitchy/lovable Felicia a magnificent gay monument. And probably winning a Tony come June, too!

It was all so wonderful, I’ve run out of glittering adjectives! Go! Just GO! To “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”! Long may she rave!

Don’t faint! Broadway is having a REAL season!At last!

I know I’m prone to over-statement, but hyperbole is where I live, and what I see. And Broadway in the 22 years, soon to be 23, on Dec.7, that I’ve been covering it for my TV show www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

Broadway has never had SUCH a season! And it really is having A WHOLE season, starting in the fall and stretching to next spring, if we’re lucky. In this economy, how is this happening??? Broadway is thriving! Tourists are packing the city. Who can afford these prices?? Something’s on the upswing, and it’s wonderful that it is!

It used to have this very real  Theater Season all year long, year in, year out. Not just the three months around the Tony Awards, in the spring.

And there were FIVE to SEVEN daily newspapers, at least. I remember fondly the World, Telegram and Sun. At one point they were THREE papers, then they consildated. And I particularly loved Dorothy Kilgallen, their Broadway columnist, who gained national television attention as a panelist of “What’s My Line.” Her column appeared every afternoon. Yes, the World, Telegram and Sun was an AFTERNOON newspaper! And she’d tell of all the marvelous plays and shows and parties she’d been to the night before. I thought it published in the afternoon because Dorothy obviously didn’t get up very early in the morning. If she went to bed at all! What a wonderful life she seemed to have!

And then, of course, like today, there was the New York Times and the Sunday New York Times. When I was a kid growing up in the Bronx, in Parkchester, I would sit pouring over and over the Broadway news “On the Rialto” that the New York Times used to have every Sunday in their Arts and Leisure section as I spread it all over the living room rug…I would read EVERY review and article, rabidly, and dream what it was like to be “On the Rialto”….and now I am!

I just can’t remember EVAH having to see so many plays at this time of year! When so many great shows were opening and opening and opening! It’s like the Theatre Gods have opened the floodgates, and we’re being inundated! With talent! And as a Drama Desk Voting Member, one has to try to see them all!

From September to,it looks like Christmas, there’s so many wonderful plays and musicals and all types of Broadway productions that I can’t quite believe this is really happening! And in THIS economy! How is so much production happening? And so many people going to see so many shows and at these prices!?!

It’s wonderful and it’s mind=boggling, but there it is. I never thought I would be seeing so many really, really good shows that I haven’t even had time to write about them!

Listing will have to do. LOVED “The Pittman Painters”at the Biltmore. Another British play by Lee Allen set in Northern England’s mining community,(like “Billy Elliot”, which co-incidentally Lee Allen ALSO wrote) it concerns a group of miners who with no cultural precedent whatsoever and not even a library in their tiny town, these men started taking an art education class that eventually turned them all into painters! And this is a true story! I could hardly believe it. It seemed wildly far-fetched — until they started showing the ACTUAL paintings(or very good facsimiles, anyway) that the miners painted and they were arresting and breathtakingly beautiful in the crude, unvarnished expressions of life as they saw it.  This show flies on its’ paintings, like musicals do on its’ songs…And I can’t recommend it highly enough.

At the other end of the excellence spectrum, there is the real triumph of the human spirit that is embodied in, of all things, Pee Wee’s Playhouse! Yes, the story, or BACK story of Paul Reubens’ fall from grace is sad, sordid, and grossly unfair, but now it’s 2010 and Pee Wee has triumphed in, of all places, Broadway. It looks like the first bona fide hit that the newly revamped Henry Miller Theater is going to enjoy. I LOVED Dame Edna’s pairing with Michael Feinstein last season, but that inexplicably fizzled.

Pee Wee’s Playhouse I think is going to run and run, simply on sheer joy and wackiness. It immediately reduces the entire audience to a child-like state and keeps them there. Pee Wee makes everyone stand up and pledge allegiance to the beginning of the show, and then we’re all pre-schoolers watching a very zany show with its’ tongue planted firmly in its’ cheek.

Pee Wee always ran on double entendre’s and there are plenty of them to keep the adults bemused and they’ll fly right over kiddies heads, like many of the puppets do, and Pee Wee himself does as the show’s great coup de theatre finale.

All the characters that I wondered “Whatever happened to them?” are back, sometimes with the original Pee Wee’s Playhouse Players playing them. Like Miss Yvonne, “the loveliest lady in Puppetland”. Whose looking a little worse of the wear but still pluckily hanging in there as she proclaims”Pee Wee! I’m your best friend!”

She has a rival in Pee Wee’s favorite chair “Chair-ee” who is back and now the other woman in Pee Wee’s crazy world, who he adores to sit on.

Jesse Garcia of “Quincenera” manages to impress as a new character of a Hispanic handy man who has come to install a new “computadora” for Pee Wee.  He manages to hold his own against all the animated furniture, flowers and fish.

The puppetry in this show is really first-rate. And when I first thought about this show I thought, “Well, a one-man show of just his shtick is gonna be a little boring after the first few minutes” but oh no, Ruebens’ Pee Wee is not alone! I think that I counted upwards of twenty actors and puppeteers at the final curtain call. Pee Wee is well supported this time around. And one’s heart does fly when one is shocked to discover that it remembers all the lines to Jambi The Genie(he’s a revolving talking blue head in a box. Pee Wee’s magic mirror as it were) magical invocation “Meka Leka Hi! Meka Heiny Ho!”

I wonder if “Elf” coming up soon can even regain HALF of Pee Wee’s simple(but complex) fun! “The magic word for today,” said Pee Wee, “is FUN! And you know what you have to do when you hear the word FUN!”

The audience obediently answers, “Yes!”

And Pee Wee says “SCREAM!”

And they all do! Me, too!

At the end of the show, everyone was screaming their heads off- with laughter! Heaven!

Camp Classic Suffers Nervous Breakdown on Bway

I have heard the WORST buzz on any show this season on “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” the musical version of Pedro Almodovar’s Camp Classic, with two Capital Cs. This is an important even seminal work in the worldwide gay ouevre. And Pedro Almodovar is my personal gay god.

It was Almodovar’s breakthough film internationally. But here, in this version, at the Belasco, well, if you want to see a show having a nervous breakdown right in front of you. and all these talented people with it, run, don’t walk to the Belasco, because I fear it’s not going to be around for very long.

How could you take this hilarious movie and make a musical that is NOT FUNNY?!? There is no wit visisble in “Women on the Verge…”Every line seemed to land with a thud. And, and it’s just not well, gay, enough. I’ll be surprised if it’s still open by the time I finish typing this sentence.

But gays are the audience for this, if indeed there is any audience at all. And you have some of the best musical comedy actresses of our time, including Patti LuPone, Laura Benanti and Sherrie Rene Scott and make them ALLLL not funny? Well, director Bartlett Sher and composer David Yazbeck have done just that.And Jeffrey Lane the book writer has to take a lot of the blame, too. For this brightly-hued mess.

At one point, towards the end of the painful first act, all these uber-talented women were STARING at each other, with “What the hell are we doing here?” looks on their faces. And I’m sure much of the audience was thinking the same thing.

It sure is colorful enough. In fact, director Sher seems to have spent all his time and energy on the extremely overwhelming, but colorful projected backdrops, that display more excitement than the actors do. Which is a shame.

 In fact, the never-for-a-moment-still projections by Sven Ortel, overwhelm most of the actors, and you watch them instead of the mere mortals trying valiantly to hold up their ends of the bargain. Sher obviously wants to direct a movie. But this isn’t A MOVIE! It’s a Broadway musical! Now, he did just fine with “Light in the Piazza” but that had a magnificently lush and romantic score by Adam Guettel. Here the score is just thumpingly serviceable. The music should make it fly, not give you a nervous breakdown.

Wasn’t this the show that was a hit in London and that’s why they brought it here? Can’t be the same production. It’s certainly not a British cast, for a change.

There’s been soooo many British shows and British actors on Broadway this year I thought I had moved to England.

What’s missing is the light-hearted , De-LIGHT-ful light touch that camp needs to succeed. It needed a homosexual writing the score, I’m afraid, and David Yazbeck who is talented and has succeeded on Bway with shows based on movies like “The Full Monty” and “Dirty Rotten Soundrels” has come a cropper with “Breakdown.” His score is thumpingly straight and frankly too serious for a delicate, camp subject like this.

He and Sher, both heterosexuals, married with children, just don’t get it. And they’ve ruined what should have been a sublimely frothy show into something shrill and almost unbearable. Y’know, like A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN. It made me want to watch the movie again. But not this musical. Life is too short.

And what a shame it is to see the great Patti LuPone wasted like this!

However she and Danny Burstein, are the only two performaners here who seems to hit just the right high notes as a crazy Madrid cab-driver with peroxided blond hair. They are the shows bright spots. And it does have them. And Burstein has the entire opening number to himself called “Madrid Is My Mother” and I thought, Wow! This really might be something! And to hell with all the bad buzz, then as the show wore on and on and only brightened when La LuPone crossed the stage in a parade of outrageous ’60s hats and costumes, or when she sang, did it sputter to life. She has one solo number called “Invisible” and she stops the show. And it needed stopping.

The shows creators never seem to find the CHARM and the warmth of Almodovar’s world, except when Patti or Burstein were center stage.

And a lot of this also has to be laid at the doors of Sherrie Rene Scott, who is the leading lady here, in her first serious acting role. And she was never known for her serious acting. She has to anchor the whole show. Not BE an anchor. It’s like she’s this dead-weight the musical has to keep dragging back on stage. She seems to be playing depressed. And it’s depressing as opposed to comical.

 And Laura Benanti, who won a Tony for her performance as Gypsy in “Gypsy,” is simply strident and hysterical, but not funny- hysterical, just hysterical- hysterical. Like as in annoying.

Carmen Maura, if memory serves, was just instantly lovable as Pepa, the lead in the movie version. You were instantly on her side. You wanted her to succeed in all the crazy attempts she makes to NOT have a nervous breakdown. She had warmth. She had charm. She had style. She had class. She had humor. It was the greatest FUN to watch her try NOT to have a nervous breakdown. Whereas poor Sherie Rene Scott seems to actually be clinically depressed.

And the subtitles in the movie were funnier than the lines in this play. Maybe it should’ve been all in Spanish with subtitles. So sad, so sad.

Luis Salgado who was in the chorus of “In the Heights” here gets an actual memorable role as the non-speaking Malik  the terrorist who is the amour of Laura Benanti’s character. He gets to be nude upstage of Benanti getting out of bed, and then dresses and comes back later clad only in a towel. Now THAT’S Almodovarian! And I’m sure Pedro would agree.

O Dios Mio! Oh! And Brian Stokes Mitchell is in this too as the man all the women are obsessing over. And that makes some kind of sense. But since he’s wasted with mediocre songs and lines, too. He barely registers.

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