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“Ruddigore” Delights w/star turns of David Macaluso & Caitlin Burke

Ruddigore

I’ve really becoming enamoured of the enterprising New York Gilbert & Sullivan players. Esp. when they delight by bringing back (from the dead in this case, literally) one of the more obscure operettas like “Ruddigore.” This was scheduled as a special Hallowe’en Trick or Treat, and it was!

In this case I was only scared that the sets would fall down again. Like they did so charmingly when I caught their also-little-seen gem “Patience” last winter. But there was no fear of gaffes like that in their new home at NYU’s sparkling Skirball Center.

They only do three performances each so you have to catch them quick. And I do. And you’ll never see these lesser known works of the G&S canon anywhere but with the NYGasp as they like to abbreviate themselves. I think they can be found at NYGasp.com on the Internet. They also regularly do their ever-popular classics, “The Mikado”,”H.M.S.Pinafore”& “Pirates of Penzance” which alternate with the “Patience”s and the “Ruddigore”s.I love it!

The Skirball Center has a wide stage and a deep pit for the orchestra, and the seats were comfortable too! I hope they stay there for awhile. And it’s their 40th season! Imagine that!

And do they make those old ghostly ditties of “Ruddigore” dance! The plot is too complicated and silly to even reiterate here. But I have to say, the book by my idol William Schrenk Gilbert actually had me laughing up a storm in Act One! When do you encounter a BOOK, 19th century BOOK of a musical, that’s actually that witty. And well delivered by the excellent David Macaluso, who is as adept with slinging one-liners and physical comedy as he is with singing the vocally demanding, tongue-twisting score. He strikes 19th century acting poses with the command of a Booth.

I was also delighted to see their buxom Brunnilde, Caitlin Burke return in the low comedy part of Mad Margaret. There’s also a Mad Margaret in Shakespeare’s “Richard III” but she’s almost always cut out of it. Olivier didn’t have Mad Margaret in his famous film, and neither did Mark Rylance in his recent “Richard III” on Bway. But you can’t cut THIS Mad Margaret out of “Ruddigore”. She’s the whole bloody show!

Ms. Burke blew me out of the water last year in a fat suit with a cello in last season’s “Patience”. Here she’s chewing up the scenery literally as a woman driven mad (and homeless) by love.as she wails “Cheerily Carols the Lark,” a recitative that is also an aria. Long may she wail!

And in the Second Act, Macaluso and she are teamed(pictured above) for a rather unbelievably peppy rendition of “My Eyes Are Fully Opened”, a trio( veteran Richard Alan Holmes joins them) as their patter song gets faster and faster and faster until they can no longer speak the copious, tricky lines.And are basically spouting gibberish. Hilarious! Gilbert is saying here that even his own lyrics are nonsense! And in this case, he’s right!

And the comic punch line in this dizzying fandango is the word “Basingstoke”. Which I was told was Gilbert’s sly dig at the residence of D’Oyly Carte(G&S legendary manager/maestro)’s mistress.

Basingstoke was always seemed one of those accidentally comical-sounding British locations, like Chipping Sudbury. But it was never funnier than it was last night at “Ruddigore.” Hats off to the hysteria that Macaluso and Burke create!And to their resounding back-up troup of Bucks, Blades,Ancesters, Professional Bridesmaids and Villagers. I’m still giggling.

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Tony Predictions Part Four

Tony Predictions Part Four

And continuing on and hopefully concluding, my four-part Tony Predictions, we now come to another hotly contended category, Best Actor in a Musical.

I think although he tied in a surprise at the Drama Desk Awards, with Jefferson Mays, who does 8 or 9 different roles in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” I think former host of the Tonys, Neil Patrick Harris is going to get the ultimate tribute and thank you from the Tony Voters here for his box-office busting drag turn as Hedwig in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” which I also think is going to get Best Revival of a Musical.Neil Patrick Harris is everywhere on TV, too, talking, talking, talking. He’s campaigning. He wants it. He lost 20 pounds for this role. He’s got the momentum. He’ll get it.

“Beautiful” is going to garner its’ beautiful leading lady Jessie Mueller, who sings almost non-stop, and is hardly ever off-stage playing a marvelously understated Carole King, it’s going to garner Jessie her first Tony as Best Actress in a Musical as well it should. Subtlety and under-playing are not usually awards bait, but in this case, Jessie Mueller is the complete package.

Best Actor in a Play is going to be the its-his-time-to-shine Bryan Cranston, almost as much for his unforgettable Walter White in “Breaking Bad.” And “All the Way” the three-hour political play about LBJ will win Best Play. It also won both these awards at the Drama Desks. This is the year when everybody just wants to THROW as many awards willy nilly at Bryan Cranston as they possibly can. Lucky duck.

Best Actress in a Play will be Audra McDonald for her impeccable “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grille” in which though she sings a dozen or more of Billie Holiday’s greatest hits, although she is in the Best Actress in a PLAY category. It’s more than a little unfair to the dramatic actresses who are nominated in this category who just got there by their acting chops. Tyne Daly it’s a shame that you’re up against the unstoppable Awards magnet Audra McD. who will break all kinds of records by winning her SIXTH Tony award tomorrow night.

Audra was nominated in the CORRECT category for the Outer Critics Circle, Best Actress in a Musical, and she won that, too! Like Cranston, there’s no stopping her.

In the Supporting Actors, or Featured as they are called by the Tonys, only James Munroe Inglehart, as the larger-than-life Genie in “Aladdin”, is the only sure thing here in all four categories.

It’s really tricky predicting the other awards here. For Best Featured Actress in a Play it COULD be Celia Keenan-Bolger, for the long-closed revival of “A Glass Menagerie.” Celia has been nominated for a Tony three times and she’s beloved, but she’s up against first time nominee British actress Sophie Okenado making her Broadway debut for “A Raisin in the Sun.”

Sophie’s main problem is her competition is not just Celia Keenan-Bolger, but also her cast-mate Anika Noni Rose as her sister-in-law in “Raisin.” One of these two, probably Sophie, could take this and be the only award that “Raisin” is apt to win. The Tony voters notoriously snubbed Denzel Washington, who let’s face it, is why this great play is being revived so soon after it was just on the Great White Way with P. Diddy. And Felecia Rashad, who won in the Best Actress Category.

Also, in contention, is Mare Winningham for “Casa Valentina” as the real-woman house-mother to a hotel-full of straight transvestites in the Catskills in the 1960s. Any of these women are worthy. And could win. But there’s no clear front-runner here. If “degree of difficulty” comes into play as it often does at the Oscars, the crippled Laura of Celia Keenan-Bolger “Glass Menagerie” might take it. It’s really hard to call this one. But it also should be noted that Mare Winningham WON in this category for the Outer Critics Circle Awards. She tied with Andrea Martin for “Act One” who is not nominated for a Tony. And Celia Keenan-Bolger was not nominated for the OCC. And Celia has picked up some other precursor awards, too, it must be noted, which gives her the edge.

And Sophie Okenado and Anika Noni Rose might cancel each other out, being from the same show, “Raisin”, and “Raisin” wasn’t as acclaimed as “A Glass Menagerie” was.

It’s also hard to call the other Featured Actress in a Musical category winner. It was so close at the Drama Desk it was ANOTHER tie between Lauren Worsham and Anika Larsen for “Gentleman’s Guide…” and “Beautiful” respectively. It could either of these two, who were also profiled together in the New York Times. I’m going to do a coin toss and say it’s Anika.

She plays Carole King’s wise-cracking best friend and co-composer and rival song-writer. It’s a more substantial, and layered role. So I think Ms. Larsen takes this one.This most competitive category is rounded out by Linda Emond in “Cabaret” playing the Lotte Lenya role. And Lena Hall, playing a transgender MAN (who turns back into a woman!) in “Hedwig:And the Angry Inch.” And the stealth candidate is Adriane Lenox, who sings two sizzling songs in “After Midnight” and just steals the whole show. Full disclosure, she was my vote for the Drama Desk in this category.ANYbody could win and surprise in both these Featured Actress categories, really.

And then there’s Best Featured Actor in a Play, where we have the irresistible (to Tony Voters) Mark Rylance as Lady Olivia in the unforgettably delightful Elizabethan mounting of “Twelfth Night.” Even though this show is long closed and Rylance already has already won Tonys aplenty, I think he’s going to win again, against Reed Birney’s terrific, but evil transvestite Charlotte in “Casa Valentina.”

Rylance, who will inevitably recite an obscure poem when he wins, even if he’s there to accept(he may be in London), and bore the audience to death, also has the added bonus of being nominated in the Best Actor in a Play category for his “Richard III” which was performed in rep, with the glittering “Twelfth Night.”

In conclusion, I’d like to point out that though “A Gentleman’s Guide…” seems poised to win the most Tonys, its’ creative team are the ones that are going to carry the day, but none of its’ supremely talented performers look like they are going to win. The competition is THAT tough this year.

Jefferson Mays won the Outer Critics Circle and tied with Neil Patrick Harris for Best Actor in a Musical. And the terrific Bryce Pinkham as Monte Navarro, our hero,or anti-hero, as the most lovable serial killer ever is going to split the “A Gentleman’s Guide..” votes with Mays and they are both going to get steam-rolled by the Neil Patrick Harris juggernaut. Lauren Worsham, in the all-over-the-place, Best Featured Actress in a Musical category,tied with Anika Larsen in this category. Is her adorable, innocent, coloratura ingenue going to surprise and trounce Larsen. She might. She is cuteness and purity and good girl personified.

So don’t miss the Tonys tonight on CBS at 8pm. Hosted by the always watchable Hugh Jackman it will feature production numbers from all the the nominated musicals and a few more extra-special bits, too.

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