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Posts tagged ‘Tony Winner’

A Star is Born! Ross Destiche Burns Up the Stage in DC “Equus”!

Ross Destiche 2As an avid theater-goer and critic, you hope that lightening strikes the stage you’re watching, and it certainly did in Wash.D.C.’s U Street area where Ross Destiche is burning up the stage in “Equus”. He is simply astounding in the oft-revived Tony -winning play by Peter Shaffer, Destiche is so incendiary as well as powerful as the disturbed (un)stable boy who blinds six horses, that I’m going to say that Ross Destiche, who is being valentin-ed by the local press, is the best Alan Strang I’ve ever seen. And yes, that includes Daniel Radcliffe’s recent Broadway star turn that the Drama Desk nominated for Best Actor, but the Tonys did not. But the production co-starring the late Richard Griffiths sold out anyway.

If Ross Destiche’s performance was on Broadway in this role, he’d WIN a Tony!

He is not only movie-star handsome with a chiseled cheekbones and a body like a  Greek god carved in blinding white marble, he’s got the blue-est eyes imaginable. His eyes magnetize the audience. You see, the Constellation Theatre Company’s stage is teeny-tiny and the set by A.J. Guban is a huge triangular thrust. And director Amber McGinnis Jackson (yes, a woman directed this most homo-erotic of plays), places Destiche’s tormented Alan on-stage for almost the whole proceedings. Perched on the tip of the triangle, curled up into a teenage ball of pain, Destiche is in a position where he can scrutinize every member of the audience.

He gave me such a look of blinding hostility as I took my seat, that was absolutely chilling and disturbing and absolutely right for the character. He immediately scared the living daylights out of me. A classically trained actor from Minnesota, where he graduated with a BFA from the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Program, Ross Destiche just has the word “Star” stamped all over him. Every inch.

His Act Two extended nude mad scene was unforgettable. When I got to interview him after the show, he wanted to make sure I gave full credit to Emily Kester, who he plays opposite, who is also completely nude, as is Destiche for that astounding Second Act. She was effortless and utterly comfortable in what could have been a very uncomfortable situation, being that the audience was “THIS close.”

“I couldn’t have done what I do in that scene without her,” Destiche told me. Sounding kind of astounded at just how powerful that scene between them is.

Kester plays the part of the cocky stable girl who coaxes him out of his clothes as she takes off hers.

He caught my eye in a small part in Ethan McSweeney’s “The Tempest” last year at the Harmon Shakespeare Theatre, sort of a DC equivalent to Lincoln Center. He stood out even then in a nearly wordless emsemble part.

And so when I received the news that he was garnering raves in “Equus.” I made sure I made my way down-there post-haste. And Destiche didn’t disappoint. He was thrilling.

He made sense out of the psyche of a role that always seemed inexplicable to me, no small feat.Ross Destiche 2 Ross Destiche 1

I told him that I felt he was one of America’s best young actors.

And the only thing wrong with this production of “Equus” is that it’s in DC, and it’s closing on Sunday and the Broadway & Hollywood Theater Godz will likely not get to see it.

But they’ll remember the name of Ross Destiche. He’s going to be very, very famous. And soon.

 

Of Two “New” French Musicals on Bway, “Gigi” Bubbles to the Top

Gigi 1Of the two “brand new” French musicals on Broadway, “Gigi” is by far my favorite of the two. If I had to pick. And I do. This being theater awards season and all.

I just loved “Gigi” more than I did “An American in Paris”. Both opening inexplicably within days of each other on the Great White Way. And both based on the Oscar-winning movie musicals, both set in Paris, both directed by the great Vincente Minnelli, and both films starring the ever-soignee Leslie Caron.

I was utterly captivated by this “new” “Gigi” now starring the tiny little Disney starlet perky Vanessa Hudgens. I was really ready to not like what this revival of “Gigi”, one of my favorite films of all time, portended. A French “High School Musical” which is Ms. Hudgens’ prior claim to fame.

But it completely captivated me.  Why? Well, it was almost like discovering a new Lerner and Loewe musical from when they were in their prime.

“Gigi” was based originally on a novella by the great French writer Collette, which was then turned into a play(without music) starring the young and then-unknown Audrey Hepburn. It was a hit in 1951 and launched Hepburn’s career..

Then Vincente Minnelli and Lerner and Loewe decided to musicalize it  this time as a movie, and voila! It won NINE Academy Awards including Best Picture, and was an international hit movie(as was “An American in Paris” also a superb film, but more on that later.)

THEN, in a little-known side-bar to American Musical Comedy history, it was made into a Broadway musical adding in more music in the early ’70s with Alfred Drake and Agnes Moorehead and it flopped. Taking with it some wonderful songs “Paris is Paris Again”. “A Toujours”, “I Never Want to Go Home Again” and more.

Not to be heard again, until now. This current “Gigi” has got a lot of very good things just right. It’s got a je ne sais quoi adaptation  by Heidi Thomas, who has captured the great elan this souffle MUST have. She has retained all the famous numbers, but er, re-arranged them all over the place.

Giving songs that were sung by Maurice Chevalier, for instance, “Thank Heavens for Little Girls” to the non-pareil Tony Winner Victoria Clark. Clark is having ANOTHER great Broadway moment as Mamita, the role made famous in the movie by legendary British comedianne Hermione Gingold. Clark, also scores with a solo that was formerly Gigi’s, “Say a Prayer.” Her role as Gigi’s gran-mere is emphasized here and her golden soprano used to perfection. This version of “Gigi” seems to be being told from the grandmother’s very sympathetic point of view.

Of course, you really have to squint in the  delightfully dark Belle Époque settings of Derek McLane ( atmospherically lit to perfection by Natasha Katz, who also has lit “An American in Paris”!) to see that “Gigi” is the story of a young girl being raised by her grandmother and aunt to be a high-class prostitute. The Disney-i-facation is apparent here, because it’s so subtle, so INFERRED. A tween Hudgens fan, might rightly assume the Gigi’s gran-mere is overly concerned with getting Gigi a very nice apartment.

Victoria Clark is mightily aided in this dramatic re-interpretation by the delicious Dee Hoty as Gigi’s Aunt Alicia, and Clark’s sister-in-crime. In fact, they BOTH sing “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” the first time we hear it. And we hear it a lot. It is to their vast credit that “Gigi” is as witty and insouciant this time around. The duo never cease to delight and surprise.

Keeping up the male end of things is the incredibly agile, incredibly young and incredibly short Gaston of Corey Cott. Ms. Hudgens, as I said, is quite tiny, too, so they seem made for each other. Playing a world-weary bon-vivant is a bit of a stretch for youngster Cott ( a 40-something Louis Jourdan played him so memorably in the movie), but Cott is just right here in joining in the joie de vivre of Mamita and Gigi as they (and then all of Paris) celebrate “The Night They Invented Champagne.”

Cott also hits a dramatic high-point, this time on a moonlit park bench, with the title song “Gigi.”

Far less successful is the unfortunate Howard McGillin, who has to fill Chevalier’s huge Gallic shoes. His & Mamita’s “Yes I Remember It Well” is sung with an umbrella in a rain shower. It was all wet. He seems to be apologizing for his performance every time he steps onstage.

But McLane’s setting, Katz’ ever-versatile lighting and Catherine Zuber’s exuberant costumes carry along youngsters Cott and Hudgens til, yes, we watch them grow up right before our eyes, as they become the stage stars they have to be to make this “Gigi” work. That’s not the original Collette’s plot, but it is enjoyable nonetheless.

I love Old Fashioned Book Musicals, with characters rather than concepts,and heavenly music that bubbles you out the door, and if you do, too, “Gigi” is the new-old musical for you.

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Judith Light! Winner! Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play! “The Assembled Parties”

The wonderful Judith Light just won the Drama Desk Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for Richard Greenberg’s “The Assembled Parties.” She also won in this same category last year for “Other Dessert Cities.” I told her she would win the Drama Desk and then the Tony, too, last year, and SHE DID! Now you can see her surprised reaction when I said history was about to repeat itself, and she would win again. AND SHE DID! She’s also nominated for a Tony so maybe that will happen AGAIN this year! It’s very unusual for there to be two consecutive Tony wins in a row. But then I don’t remember this ever happening with the Drama Desk either. So….

If anyone one can pull off this impossible feat, it’s the much loved Judith Light!

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