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Aubrey's Corner

Aubrey Reuben is a former member of the Tony Nominating Committee 2000-2003, former Acting President of Outer Critics Circle 2005 and former Entertainment Editor of Temas Magazine 1981-2004. He is on the Executive and Nominating Committee of Outer Critics Circle and a member of Drama Desk. He is the Theatre Critic for 15minutesmagazine.com. Reuben is a celebrity photographer for the New York Post, his agency is London Features International. Reuben's column Aubrey's Broadway appears in the Hampton Sheet. He is one of the eighteen profiles in the recently published book, On Broadway Men Still Wear Hats by Robert Simonson.

Aubrey’s Corner – 2019 January

Broadway

The Cher Show, book by Rick Elice, at the Neil Simon Theatre, is a musical for fans of Cher. Three actresses play Cher at different stages in her life. Stephanie J. Block is Star, the oldest and most mature. She dominates the production with a powerful voice and wears all the outrageous costumes created by Bob Mackie played by Michael Berresse. All the songs made popular by Cher are sung by an energetic cast, directed by Jason Moore. The choreography by Christopher Gattelli is enjoyable. We see Cher as a shy child and, as she has success as a singer, she is dominated by Sonny Bono (Jarrod Spector). They were television stars in the 1970s. She makes bad choices with her husbands and boyfriends. It is a superficial outline of her life. However, those who remember her will enjoy listening to the songs.

Ruben & Clay's First Annual Christmas Show, at the Imperial Theatre features the two singers, Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken. Five other members in the cast, directed by Jonathan Tessero, accompany them in a salute to the Christmas season. All are wonderful singers, and sing all the traditional Christmas songs. It is the perfect gift for the holidays. The audience enjoyed every moment, and gave the cast a standing ovation. We celebrated the opening at the Copacabana.

Off Broadway

The Emperor's Nightingale, by Damon Chua, is a production of the Pan Asian Repertory at the Beckett Theatre. It is a fairy tale about two princes wanting to inherit the throne in China. The six member cast, directed by Chongren Fan, play multiple roles like pandas, tigers and birds also as well as royals. It is a short play that will delight children and adults alike. The opening party took place in Lounge at Theatre Row, where we congratulated the cast and creative team.

A Child's Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas, adapted and directed by Charlotte Moore, with musical direction at the piano by John Bell, is a charming production of the Irish Repertory Theatre. The six member cast is superb. Each and everyone sings and dances magnificently. Margaret Dudasik even plays the violin while dancing. The opening night party was held on the second floor in the rehearsal room, and we congratulated the cast and creative team for the delightful performance, which is a perfect Christmas gift to theater audiences. Among the guests were Tony and Gen Walton and Malachy McCourt.

We thank Artistic Director Charlotte Moore and Producing Director Ciaran O'Reilly for a marvelous party, complete with delicious food, fine wine and Jameson Irish Whiskey. Christmas in Hell, book, music and lyrics by Gary Apple, directed and choreographed by Bill Castellino, is a production of the York Theatre Company. It tells the story of an eight-year-old boy, who visits Lucifer in Hell. His father makes the same trip to rescue him.

The musical is pleasant, and the eight member cast sing well. We congratulated the cast and creative teams at Lips Restaurant at the opening night party. 

Clueless, The Musical, by Amy Heckerling, at the Pershing Square Signature Center, is a production of The New Group. Based on the film of the title, it tells the story of a young, spoilt, high school girl (Dove Cameron) in Los Angeles in the 1990s, who spends her time at school looking to interfere in the love lives of her teachers and students. It is a pretty silly story. However, the large cast is energetic, sing and dance well, under the direction of Kristin Hanggi, and choreographer Kelly Devine. Since the film was popular in 1995, the musical will appeal to young girls.

Opera

The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players, presented The Pirates of Penzance, libretto by William S. Gilbert, music by Arthur Sullivan, at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College. It was their final production of 2018. Fans of one of the most popular light operas that Gilbert and Sullivan ever created enjoyed this delightful production, first performed in New York in 1879, directed and conducted by Artistic Director Albert Bergeret, who founded the company in 1974. It is his gift to New York audiences, and they respond with well deserved ovations. The cast sang, acted and danced well to the glorious music, played beautifully by the orchestra. Sarah Caldwell Smith was a strong voiced Mabel, James Mills was an amusing Major General Stanley, Matthew Wages was a fine Pirate King and David Auxier was a perfect Sergeant of Police, but it was Louis Dall'Ava in the ensemble as a policeman in the second act, who stole the show. He is one of the oldest members of the company, and was hilarious. 

Film

MoMA presented Silent Comedy International until December 2. I saw the last day's screenings. Transatlantic Teamwork was three films with Laurel and Hardy, John Bunny and Flora Finch, and the Danish team of Pat and Patachon. The first two were shorts and the third was a feature film. I also saw The British Are Coming, with was four films with Jimmy Aubrey, Lupino Lane and again Laurel and Hardy in the first three shorts. They were two fascinating programs, which introduced the cinema audience to many comic talents from other countries.

MoMA presented Ugo Tognazzi: Tragedies of a Ridiculous Man December 5-28. I managed to see three films of the great Italian actor, director and screenwriter. The finest was La Cage aux folles (Birds of a Feather), by Edouard Molinaro, France/Italy, 1978, about two gay couple (Ugo Tognazzi and Michel Seurralt), who own a nightclub in St. Tropez, where one stars in a drag show. When Tognazzi's son arrives to announce that he is marrying the daughter of an ultraconservative government official, and they will be visiting to meet them, they have to pretend that they are a typical man and wife. The film is hilarious, and the cast is superb. From this film, a musical version became a hit on Broadway in 1983. The other two films La proprieta non e piu un furto (Property is No Longer a Theft), de Elio Petri, Italy, 1973, and Splendori e miserie di Madame Rpyale, by Vittorio Caprioli, Italy 1970, were interesting, but not as good. Still, Tognazzi gave splendid performances in each film.

The Baker's Wife, by Marcel Pagnol, France, 1938, at Film Forum, is about a baker (the wonderful Raimu), who moves to a small village in the Provence with his young wife (Ginette Leclerc). She runs off with a handsome shepherd, and the baker is destroyed by her disappearance, and refuses to make bread until she returns. The entire cast is magnificent. Every villager is a character and very funny. It is one of the most brilliant films among the many great films made by Pagnol. It was screened at Film Forum from December 21-27.

I attended a press screening of Easy Living, by Mitchell Leisen, USA, 1937, at Film Forum. It is one of the funniest films I have ever seen. I enjoyed every minute of it. It has a convoluted plot, screenplay by Preston Sturges, a typical screwball comedy of the 30s. A wealthy banker (Edward Arnold) tosses his wife's new fur coat over the balcony of his penthouse and it lands on top of a young lady (Jean Arthur). When the two meet accidentally, he insists on her keeping the coat and buys her a new hat. His son (Ray Milland) is working, collecting plates left on the tables at an automat, where the young lady is eating. They are attracted to each other. The chaos that takes place in the automat is hilarious. It will be screened at Film Forum on December 28-January 3.

La Religieuse (The Nun), by Jacques Rivette, France, 1966, at Film Forum, was banned in France when it first appeared. It is about a nun (Anna Karina) who in the eighteenth century is forced to enter a convent, where she is mistreated. It is a powerful film, and the acting by the entire cast is excellent. It captures the period perfectly for a costume drama. It will be screened at Film Forum on January 4-January 17.

Cold War, written and directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, Poland/UK/France 2018, at Film Forum, begins in 1947 in Communist Poland, where a folklore company of singers and dancers is formed. The conductor and pianist (Tomasz Kot) falls in love with one of the singers/dancers (Joanna Kulig). We follow the star-crossed lovers over the years of the Cold War in Poland, Germany and France.. It is a wonderful film, and the two leading actors are terrific. It will be screened at Film Forum beginning December 21 and will be ongoing.

Events

A wonderful Chanukah party was held at Jue Lan Club, 47 West 20th St. Bruce Lynn was the host, and he also performed. Another performer was Marti Gould Cummings. The food was delicious, and the drinks kept flowing. Everyone had a marvelous night, and it was a delightful way to celebrate the holiday.

Publicist Ann Lawlor invited me to a lovely holiday party at Blonde & Co, 34 West 27th St. The offices and rooms represent fashion designers, hair stylists, make-up artists, casting directors, models, actors, and executives of brands like L'Oreal and Lassalle. Delicious food was served along with open bars, one featuring a wonderful rose wine Palm from the Provence. I enjoyed chatting with three actresses/models Olivia Gianella from New Jersey, Raveena Gupta from London and Abigail Rose Reedy from Wexford, Ireland, who has just arrived in New York. It was a wonderful evening.

The New York Stage & Film 2018 Winter Gala took place at the Plaza. A host of celebrities attended, including Talia Balsam and husband John Slattery, Daryl Roth, Carolyn McCormick, Michael Mayer, and many others too numerous to mention. Three people were honored Patricia Wettig. Ken Olin and Johanna Pfaelzer. It is always a delightful event.

The Eleventh Annual Broadway Dreams Supper took place at The St. Regis celebrating the 70th Anniversary of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific. A multitude of celebrities attended, including Erin Dilly and Izzy McCalla, Metropolitan Opera Star Isabel Leonard, New York Giant Zak De Ossie #51, Rob Ashford and many others too numerous to mention. It was a wonderful evening.

The highlight of the year is always the 64th Anniversary International Debutante Ball 2018 at the Pierre Hotel, 2 East 61st St. All the beautiful young ladies are charming, and among them I had the pleasure of chatting with several of them, including from Belgium Miss Axelle Laurent Josi, from France Miss Catherine d'Angine, from Scotland Miss Charlotte Drummond-Herdman and Miss Lexa Drummond of Megginch and from Liechtenstein Princess Aurelia of Liechtehstein. At the cocktail reception I had a delightful chat with Dimitri Ziadi-Campbell of Castle Goring, the son of Lady Colin Campbell, who attended the event at the invitation of the publicist Christine Biddle. The dinner was scrumptious, and the guests were elegant. For me, 2018 finished on a high note. It was a memorable evening, one which I will cherish.