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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 – November 2018

Broadway

The Ferryman, by Jez Butterworth, at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, is a remarkable play. After watching it for 3 hours and 15 minutes, you will feel you have been immersed in a Northern Ireland farm with an enormous cast, expertly directed by Sam Mendes. Everyone in the cast gives a brilliant performance, and each one is given a moment to shine. It takes place in 1981, when the harvest is celebrated with a wonderful celebration. In act II, we witness the celebration with singing, and dancing, which is the highlight of the production. This is also the period where the IRA have become very violent with bombings, and nine political prisoners have died in prison on a hunger strike. Three IRA members arrive at the party, and an ominous tone pervades the atmosphere. It is one of the most impressive plays seen on Broadway in recent years, and I predict it will earn a well-deserved Tony nomination.

 

The Waverley Gallery, by Kenneth Lonergan, at the Golden Theatre, is a play about a grandmother (Elaine May) who rents the art gallery in Greenwich Village of the title. She is having hearing difficulties, and shows signs that she is losing her mind. Her grandson (Lucas Hedges) narrates her sad story, while her daughter (Joan Allen) finds it is hard to take care of the frail lady. The five member cast, directed by Lila Neugebauer, give excellent performances. Anyone who has grandparents or parents suffering from dementia will relate to this realistic play.

 

Off-Broadway

 

On Becket: Exploring the Works of Samuel Beckett, conceived & performed by Bill Irwin, at the Irish Repertory Theatre, is a ninety-minute performance by Irwin, in which he displays his admiration for the famous Irish playwright. He acts eight selections from his plays, the most famous being Waiting For Godot, in which he is joined by 13-year-old Finn O'Sullivan, who also reveals his growing talent. Irwin is a marvelous clown, and while putting on a series of hats, and changing his trousers and jackets, he shows his ability to transform himself before our eyes. After the performance, we attended the opening night party at Jake's Saloon, 10th Avenue between 22nd and 23rd Streets, where we congratulated the two actors, with guests Tony and Gen Walton, and Artistic Director Charlotte Moore and Producing Director Ciaran O'Reilly. It was a lovely party.

 

My Parsifal Conductor, by Allan Leicht, at the Majorie Dean Little Theater at the West Side YMCA, is a production of the Directors Company. The title refers to the appointment of a Jewish conductor Hermann Levi (Geoffrey Cantor), who is chosen to conduct the first Parsifal at Bayreuth in 1882. Richard Wagner (Eddie Korbich) opposes the choice of a Jew to conduct his last opera. When he fails, he tries to persuade Levi to become a Christian. The two fine actors dominate the play. The seven member cast, is directed by Robert Kalfin. The set design of Harry Feiner is impressive. We first see Wagner's wife Cosima in bed in 1930, where she recalls the incidents that took place between 1880 and 1886, and then she comments on what is taking place during those years.

 

Midnight at The Never Get, book, music and lyrics by Mark Sonnenblick, co-conceived by Sam Bolen, is a production of the York Theatre Company. It is about two gay men in the late 1960's in Greenwich Village, New York City. One (Jeremy Cohen) is a songwriter and the other (Sam Bolen) sings his songs. They become lovers during a time when homosexuals were persecuted by the police. It follows their life, which ends sadly for both. A third actor (Jon J. Peterson) is the singer as he grows old. All three are fine singers, directed by Max Friedman. The opening night party took place at Lips Restaurant, 227 East 56th St, which as the ad states is New York's ULTIMATE Drag Queen Show Palace, where we congratulated the cast and creative team.

 

Apologia, by Alexei Kaye Campbell, at the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre, is  a production of the Roundabout Theatre Company. An Art Historian (Stockard Channing) celebrates her birthday in at her home in the English countryside. Her two middle-aged sons visit with the ladies in their life. She has written a memoir and has not mentioned them. Their resentment for her neglect when they were children has a corrosive effect on the celebration. The five actors are superb, under the direction of Daniel Aukin. It is a serious, intelligent play.

 

Ordinary Days, music and lyrics by Adam Gwon, at the Clurman Theatre, Theatre Row is a Keen Company production. Four performers sing a series of songs about their life and problems living in New York, directed by Jonathan Silverstein. The music is pleasant and the cast sings well. Their stories are less interesting. The opening night party took place in the Theatre Row lounge with guests Melissa Errico, Kate Baldwin, Hunter Fisher and Jen Cody.

 

Happy Birthday, Wanda June, by Kurt Vonnegut, at the Duke on 42nd Street, is a production of the Wheelhouse Theater Company. A husband (Jason O'Connell) returns home after a eight year absence, searching for diamonds in the Amazon jungle. His wife (Kate MacCluggage) is now engaged to a doctor, who lives in an apartment across her hall. The husband is a violent man who, during various wars, enjoyed killing people and wild animals. Wanda Jean (Brie Zimmer) is already in heaven. It is a wild story, and the seven actors are superb, especially the three mentioned above. Brie is only eight years old. Jeff Wise directed the play, and we celebrated at a opening night party at the Brazen Tavern, 356 West 44th St.

 

Operetta


The Yeomen of the Guard,
 libretto by William S. Gilbert, music by Arthur Sullivan, at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, is a production of the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players. Directed and conducted by Albert Bergeret, founder, artistic director and general manager since 1974, it is one of the finest companies presenting the delightful operettas the nineteenth century of the two geniuses that are Gilbert and Sullivan. It is a convoluted story that takes place in the 16th century outside the Tower of London. A prisoner is to be beheaded, and what follows is highly entertaining. The principal singers and ensemble performed magnificently in this superb production. Among the singers that were especially outstanding, one must mention James Mills, Daniel Greenwood, Matthew Wages, and Abigail Benke in her debut with the company. The excellent orchestra performed the music beautifully. Albert Bergeret has to be congratulated for the glorious music that he has given New York for the past 40 years. I have enjoyed every production that he has offered.

 

Ballet

 

The New York City Ballet, at the David H. Koch Theater, presented a varied program of four ballets. Pulcinella Variations, music by Igor Stravinsky, choreography by Justin Peck, gave all the soloists to display their talents, in colorful costumes by Tsumori Chisato, especially Sara Mearns and Russell Janzen in Serenata, and Sean Suozzi in TarantellaThe Bitter Earth, music by Max Richter and Clyde Otis, choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, featured Teresa Reichlen and Ask La Cour, who danced the short piece beautifully. The Runaway, music by Nico Muhly, Kanye West, Jay-Z and James Blake, with a violin and piano soloist, plus taped songs, choreography by Kyle Abraham in collaboration with NYCB, was a disappointment. The taped songs were loud and unpleasant. The costumes and fright wigs by Giles Deacon were unattractive. The program concluded on a high note with Fearful Symmetries, music by John Adams, choreography by Peter Martins, in which all the wonderful dancers displayed the magnificent technique that delights a ballet audience. Andrews Sill conducted the orchestra.

 

The New York City Ballet, at David H. Koch Theater, presented a program of three of their popular ballets. The first and the third were two ballets, with music by Leonard Bernstein, choreography by Jerome Robbins. Fancy Free is about three sailors in New York City in 1944 drinking in a bar, and meeting three young ladies outside on the street. It formed the basis of the successful Broadway musical On the Town. The six dancers were greeted with a well-deserved thunderous ovation. West Side Story Suite is based on another successful Broadway musical West Side Story. The dancers and singers also received well deserved applause. It tells the story of two rival teenage gangs fighting each other on the West Side of Manhattan. The second ballet was Prodigal Son, music by Sergei Prokofiev, choreography by George Balanchine. The Prodigal son (Joaquin De Luz) leaves home, and is seduced by The Siren (Maria Kowroski). He is robbed and abandoned, and returns home sadder and wiser, and welcomed back by his father. The two leading dancers were marvelous, and the audience rewarded them with many curtain calls. Andrew Litton conducted the orchestra. It was my final visit of the fall season, and I enjoyed every program. What a jewel is the New York City Ballet! I have admired the company since 1951, and seeing them perform is one of the most delightful moments of my theatre-going experiences.

 

American Ballet Theatre (ABT) presented its two week season at David H. Koch Theater. The first program I saw was three ballets beginning with a superb Symphonie Concertante, choreography by George Balanchine, music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with two magnificent leading dancers, Stella Abrera and Gillian Murphy, supported ably by Alexandre Hammoudi. The ensemble rose to the occasion and danced perfectly. It was the highlight of the afternoon. The second ballet Garden Blue, choreography by Jessica Lang, music by Antonin Dvorak, with colorful set and costume design by Sarah Crowner, featured seven fine dancers, led by a brilliant Christine Shevchenko. The third ballet was Fancy Free, choreography by Jerome Robbins, music by Leonard Bernstein, which is a crowd pleaser about three sailors in 1944 enjoying a night in New York City. Aaron Scott, Thomas Forster and Calvin Royal II were the amusing sailors.. They were marvelous, and the audience granted them a tumultuous applause. It was a wonderful afternoon of glorious ballet.

 

American Ballet Theatre (ABT) presented a similar program the next afternoon. It began with Symphonie Concertante with the same cast as the day before. It was a delight to see it again. It was the highlight of the program. The third ballet was Fancy Free. This time it had a different cast, and the three sailors, Hernan Cornejo, Cory Stearns and James Whiteside, were wonderful. The second ballet Songs of Bukvina, choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, music by Leonid Desyanikov, played at the piano by Jacek Mysinski, is a dance piece for five couples, all fine dancers, headed by the always brilliant Isabella Boyston. The music, however, was less interesting. It was another enjoyable afternoon of marvelous ballet.

 

Museum

 

New York City has many fine museums, but the jewel in the crown is the Frick Collection, 1 East 70th St. At a press preview, three magnificent exhibitions were presented. Luigi Valadier: Splendor in Eighteenth-Century Rome, October 31, 2018-January 20, 2019. He was a brilliant artist, who worked in silver, gold, bronze and precious stones, and there are three rooms dedicated to his work. It is a breathtaking exhibition. Do not miss it! The second exhibition is Masterpieces of French Faience: Selections from the Sidney R. Knefel Collection, October 10, 2018-September 22, 2019. The colorful ceramics are a joy to see. The plates are works of art.. The third exhibition is The Charterhouse of Bruges: Jan van Eyck, Petrus Chistus, and Jan Vos, September 18, 2018-January 13, 2019. The paintings are simply exquisite. Be sure to visit the Frick! You will be rewarded with a most enjoyable and memorable experience.

 

Film

 

I was invited to a media preview of CMX CineBistro, 400 East 62nd Street, a brand new luxury multiplex cinema that serves delicious food and cocktails and fine wine. The many theaters are modern, comfortable and perfect for fine dining while enjoying the films. Upon entering, we were greeted with a flute of Prosecco to get us into the mood. Members of the staff spoke explaining the concept, followed by a VIP dinner and two films. If you love food, drink and movies, you must visit this splendid addition to New York.

 

I attended a screening of the documentary Restoring Tomorrow, by Aaron Wolf, at the American Jewish Heritage Society, 15 West 16th St. The program began with an introduction by the young filmmaker, followed by a Q & A after the screening, and a reception to close the evening. The documentary tells the story of The Wilshire Boulevard Temple, the oldest in Los Angeles, built in 1929, and its restoration, thanks to efforts of its rabbi. It wants to enhance the community and encourage modern young Jews to return to their faith. It is an inspiring story, and one learns the history of the temple over nearly 100 years old, with newsreel clips, including a scene from The Jazz Singer, where Al Jolson plays the piano and sings to his mother. It was an interesting evening,

 

Cabaret

 

In the new downstairs cabaret room at Birdland, 315 West 44th St, which is a wonderful room, Jamie deRoy & friends performed a benefit for The Actors Fund. The program was marvelous, with Jamie introducing her guests after singing two witty songs. She joined Gretchen Cryer & Nancy Ford in the third song of their three numbers. Donnie Kehr brought the house down, when he sang and played the piano with a medley of popular songs, by songwriters like Billy Joel, Elton John, and others. Steven Scott, a stand-up comedian, added humor to the event. Allison Blackwell was one of the highlights of the show, when she performed two songs, and Joan Ryan closed the evening with two songs. Ron Abel, piano, and Richie Goods, bass, accompanied the performers, directed by Barry Kleinbort. It was a magnificent evening of cabaret.

 

Events

 

We attended a luncheon at Bond 45, 221 West 46th St, to meet The Wheelhouse Theater Company's cast and founding members of the company, and see selections from their newest production Happy Birthday, Wanda June, by Kurt Vonnegut. The director and founding member Jeff Wise spoke about the production, as did Marc Leeds, who wrote four books about the playwright, including The Vonnegut Encyclopedia, and the cast performed two selections from the play. The play, after receiving a rave review in the New York Times, has moved to the Duke on 42nd St, 229 West 42nd St, for a six week limited engagement from October 18-November 29. It opened on October 23, and I was there. I photographed the cast, and we enjoyed a delicious buffet lunch. It was a delightful afternoon.

 

The Horton Foote Prize was presented to two playwrights Jacklyn Backaus (India Pale Ale) and Lauren Yee (Cambodian), who was not able to be present, at the Lotos Club, 5 East 66th St. All the cast of India Pale Ale were present to congratulate their playwright, as well as members of the Foote family, and guests like Judith Ivey, Elizabeth Ashley, Andre Bishop, and Lois Smith. A reception before and after was held, and I had the pleasure of photographing the charming female members of the cast and the playwright. It is always a lovely event.


I went to a cocktail party at Tuscany Steakhouse, 117 West 58th St, to photograph American Idol star Diana DeGarmo, who has a new television series. She is a lovely lady, and we all congratulated her on her success. The restaurant serves delicious food and fine wine. It is always a pleasure to attend their events.


Philanthropist Jean Shafiroff celebrated appearing on the cover of New York Lifestyles Magazine with a party at her elegant home on Park Avenue. Delicious hors d'oeuvres were served with champagne and fine wines. Jean is a beautiful, charming lady, and I have photographed her many times. She is always exquisitely dressed, and it is a pleasure to see her and know her. It was a delightful evening.

 

I attended the after-party for the 24 Hr Musicals on Broadway, which is part of the 24 Hour Plays, which supports the Lillys, at the American Airlines Theatre. Many of the performers attended, like Lea DeLaria, Jordan Roth and Norm Lewis, and writers like Amanda Green. I photographed Amanda and her husband before they left. It is a always a delightful event.

 

The Martina Arroyo Foundation 2018 Gala honored three wonderful gentlemen of the world of opera, Simon Estes, Rufus Wainwright and Maestro Anton Coppola.  It a was a pleasure to see Martina again. She was one of my favorite opera singers at the Metropolitan Opera, where I reviewed her many times. I also met Elaine Malbin, with whom we shared many memories from a long time ago. She also was one of my favorite opera singers. I mentioned to Rufus that I was born in Manchester, England, and I visited my hometown in 2009 with my wife, where his opera Prima Donna was being performed. A small world indeed!  I took photos of Martina and the honorees. The event took place at the JW Marriott Essex House. It was a lovely affair.

I attended the Claire Tow Theater for the 12th Annual Yale Drama Series Prize presented to Leah Nanako Winkler for her play God Said This. The evening began with a cocktail party followed by the award presentation. A reading of the play took place inside the theater with six splendid actors on stage, followed by another cocktail reception. It was a wonderful event, with delicious hors d'oeuvres and fine drinks. I enjoyed every minute of the delightful evening.