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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 – April 2018

 

 

Broadway

 

Escape to Margaritaville, book by Creg Garcia and Mike O'Malley, music and lyrics by Jimmy Buffett, at the Marquis Theatre, is a musical about two young ladies, who go on a week's vacation to a Caribbean Island. One (Lisa Howard) is about to be married. The other (Alison Luff) is tied to her work. Both have a romantic affair on this tropical island, one with a genial bartender (Eric Petersen) and the workaholic with a handsome guitar playing song writer (Paul Alexander Nolan). The songs are quite popular and pleasant to listen to. Cheeseburger in Paradise is one title, and they were served at the party. Buffett's fans adore his songs, and snap their fingers and wave their hands in recognition. The choreography by Kelly Devine is excellent, with pretty chorus girls and athletic young men. Christopher Ashley directed the cheerful cast, who sang and danced very well. The book is sophomoric and mindless, but the audience is encouraged to drink margaritas before and during the intermission. The result is an enjoyable evening. Among the many opening night guests was one lady I have known since 1989, where the only photo of her that I took of her 18 months previously at the Hard Rock Cafe existed at the New York Post and was bought all around the world and earned me a great sum of money. It was Donald Trump's beautiful Ex-Second Wife Marla Maples. She posed for me exclusively during the intermission. People who enjoy entertainment as a sermon should attend church and those who want an education should attend a school. I was brought up in Manchester, England, during World War II, and every Saturday night, my father took me to the Music Halls.  I am eternally grateful to him. Even being bombed by the Germans throughout 1940, I survived happily and optimistic. The opening night party took place at Pier 60 at Chelsea Piers. It was the best party that I have attended this season. The food and drink were excellent, and to Jimmy Buffett, my wife and I thank you for a delightful evening!

 

A revival of Angels in America, by Tony Kushner, at the Neil Simon Theatre, is  a revised version of the play that captured the attention of Broadway audiences in 1993. At that time, AIDS was the scourge of the nation. Fortunately, today, there are cures for the illness. However, the subtitle of the play is A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, and it is as relevant today as it was in 1993. Andrew Garfield, as a gay young man with AIDS, who utters the last word at the end of the 7 and one half hour two part play, will be nominated for a well deserved Tony Award. His performance is riveting. Nathan Lane, a Broadway treasure, is also splendid as Roy M. Cohn. His first scene in his office is hilarious. Lee Pace, Denise Gough, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and James McArdle give outstanding performances in the first two as a Mormon couple, with Nathan as a black hospital nurse and James as the Jewish lover of Andrew. In 1993, there was diversity in casting.  Marianne Elliott directed the superb cast, and the play still leaves an indelible impression on the audience. The splendid opening night party was at Espace, 635 West 42nd St, where I photographed Nathan Lane with Lewis J. Stadlen.


A revival of the Off-Broadway play, Lobby Hero, by Kenneth Lonergan, at the newly renovated Hayes Theater, formerly known as The Helen Hayes Theater, is a play that takes place in a dilapidated lobby, where a security guard Jeff, (Michael Cera) acts as a doorman. His supervisor, William (Bryan Tyree Henry) checks on him, and tells him about a serious problem involving his brother in the murder of a nurse. Two policemen on duty, Bill and Dawn (Chris Evans and Bel Powley) stop by each night. Bill visits apartment 22J to have sex with a prostitute, while his female partner waits for him in the lobby. Jeff cannot stop talking, and his big mouth causes trouble for all four pathetic characters, who cannot utter a sentence without using profanity. The dialog is so revolting, that I am fed up with being bombarded by the f... word. It is a grim, depressing tale, directed by Trip Cullman. Security people and members of the police department should do well to avoid this play.

 

I was invited again to see Once on this Island, book & lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, music by Stephen Flaherty, at Circle in the Square. The musical is quite enjoyable and the cast is delightful. There is a goat in the production, and the children in the first row squealed with delight when they petted him. It is a perfect family show, with an excellent cast and pleasant music.

 

Off-Broadway 

 

Good for Otto, by David Rabe, is a production of the New Group. It is an overlong play (over three hours) about two doctors at a mental health clinic, interviewing a variety of patients and their families. If you are interested in watching actors talking about their mental problems while sitting in chairs, you may enjoy this un-dramatic stage production.

 

Three Wise Guys, by Scott Alan Evans & Jeffrey Couchman, is a TACT production at Theatre Row. It is based on two stories by Damon Runyon. The seven member cast, directed by Scott Alan Evans, capture the language and the spirit of Runyon, and the short 80-minute play is quite amusing. After 25 years, this is TACT's final play. It leaves a worthy legacy of reclaiming fine neglected plays. It will be missed.

 

Three Small Irish Masterpieces is a production of The Irish Repertory Theatre. The Pot of Broth, by William Butler Yeats in collaboration with Lady Gregory, is humorous. Riders to the Moon, by John Millington Synge, is tragic, and The Rising of the Moon, by Lady Gregory, is a fascinating mystery. All three short one act plays are magnificently acted by an excellent six member cast, directed by Charlotte Moore. We congratulated the cast and director at a delightful opening night party in the Gallery of the theater after a most entertaining night theatrical experience.

 

Later Life, by A.R. Gurney, is a Keen Company production at the Clurman Theatre. At a party, a man and a woman meet after many years, when both were single. The lady lovingly remembered that one night. The man tries to recall the incident. Their new encounter is interrupted ad nauseam by a variety of irritating guests, played by two other actors. The four member cast is directed by Jonathan Silverstein. The playwright has written many fine plays,. Unfortunately, this 80-minute dull effort is not one of them. An opening night party was held in the lounge on the second floor at Theatre Row.

 

The Stone Witch, by Shem Bitterman, at the Westside Theatre, features three splendid actors, Dan LauriaRupak Ginn and Carolyn McCormick, directed expertly by Steve Zuckerman. It is about a famous children’s book writer and illustrator, who lives isolated in the woods. A young man arrives at his cabin to inspire him to write again. Besides being a fascinating, well acted story, the scenic design & illustration art by Yael Pardess and the projection design by Brad Peterson are most impressive, especially in an Off-Broadway production. The opening night party took place at The Palm, 250 West 50th St. and was the finest opening night party that I have ever attended, with guests like Byron Jennings, Edward Hibbert and Lorna Dallas.

 

A revival of A Walk in the Woods, by Lee Blessing, at the Barrow Group Mainstage Theatre, features two superb actors, K. Lorrel Manning and Martin Van Treuren, directed by Donna Jean Fogel. They play two diplomats, one American, the other Russian, who are in Geneva, Switzerland trying to negotiate an arms treaty between their two countries. It is a serious, intelligent, funny, well acted play. I enjoyed every minute of it. A champagne reception for the opening night followed in the lobby, where we toasted the two fine actors.

 

New York City Center Encores! at 25 presented Grand Hotel: The Musical, book by Luther Davis, music and lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest, based on the novel by Vicki Baum, with additional music by Maury Yeston. Although it had a checkered history, it finally became a success on Broadway when Tommy Tune directed and choreographed it in 1989. In this version, Josh Rhodes directed and choreographed it, and he rose splendidly to the occasion. The cast, the singers and the dancing are perfect. Tommy Tune would approve. The story, about guests and staff of the elegant hotel in Berlin, focuses on six main characters and their problems. All are fine, but the highlight is We'll Take A Glass Together, sung by Brandon Uranowitz and James Snyder, with a magnificent ensemble. It richly deserved the tumultuous ovation. I have never in 25 years seen a poor production by Encores!, and I hope to enjoy 25 years more. It is a New York treasure. People who love musical theatre must see their productions.

 

Film

 

MoMA presented El Indio: The films of Emilio Fernandez, March 1-13. I married my first wife, who was Mexican, in Mexico City in 1956. We were classmates at the National University. We spent every other summer in Mexico for the next 39 years. Seeing these films for me is nostalgia for the happy life we shared until her death in 1995. I saw the following five films.

 

Victimas del pecado (Victims of Sin), by Emilio Fernandez, Mexico, 1950, is a melodrama that takes place mainly in two different cabarets, and featured a dance called rumbera to Afro-Caribbean music. The heroine dances in both clubs and is treated badly by men. It is a grim tale of the seamy side of life. However, the music recalls the pleasant period of the times with singers like Pedro VargasRita Montaner and the orchestra conducted by Perez Prado. There are also mariachis. 

 

The second film was El rincon de las virgenes (Nest of Virgins), by Alberto Isaac, Mexico, 1972, starring Emilio Fernandez as a fraudulent healer. This is the only film in color. His adventures with credulous villagers are occasionally funny, and really quite silly. It is, however, fairly entertaining. 

 

Maria Candelaria, by Emilio Fernandez, Mexico, 1943, stars Dolores del Rio as a native Indian girl, shunned by her community for her mother's transgressions. Her lover is another Indian played by Pedro Armendariz. It is a melodramatic love story, a tearjerker, which ends in tragedy. Dolores del Rio gives a lovely, tender performance. She was a famous film actress in Mexico, and was a star in Hollywood.

 

Rio Escondido, by Emilio Fernandez, Mexico, 1947, stars Maria Felix. She was also a famous film actress in Mexico, and in the film she plays a teacher sent to a rural village. The mayor is a tyrannical brute, who treats his community badly. She is the heroine, who kills the mayor, and then dies, but her memory lives on. It is another grim, depressing melodrama.

 

Salon Mexico, by Emilio Fernandez, Mexico, 1948, is another tedious melodrama, about a woman, who works in a sleazy dance hall to earn money to support her younger sister to receive an education in a high-class boarding school. She dances with a brutal gangster, who is in love with her, and beats her in repeated scenes, which are not pleasant to watch. The convoluted story ends tragically. 

 

All five films show the horrible treatment of women and of the Indian population, which has suffered since the conquest of Mexico by Cortes in 1519. Their poverty is appalling, and today with the drug cartels running rampant; it is one of the most crime ridden and violent countries in the world.

 

MoMA also presenting Modern Matinees: Delmer Davies and H.C. Potter, March 1-April 27. The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, by H. C. Potter, USA, 1939, stars Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire as the dancing couple, who rose to fame throughout Europe and America before World War I. It is a delightful film, and it is a joy to watch the two dancers perform.


The 53rd Street library presented Blow-Up, by Michelangelo Antonioni, UK/Italy, 1967, one of the director's best films, starring David Hemmings as a fashion photographer, who takes a photo in a park, which, when blown up, a body of a murdered man appears. It is a brilliantly colored film, and the acting by a wonderful cast, which includes Vanessa Redgrave and Sarah Miles, is superb. It is also a view of Swinging London, with beautiful young ladies, lots of nudity, the influence of drugs, rock and roll music and wild modern fashion for the young ladies. It was the age of the miniskirt. I enjoyed every minute of this marvelous film.

 

Events

 

Jean Shafiroff was the Master of Ceremonies at the 66th Annual New York Junior League Winter Ball at the Pierre Hotel. The theme was Riviera Romance. It was a lovely affair, beginning with a cocktail reception, a silent auction, dinner, a live auction and an awards ceremony, followed by dancing and dessert. The ladies looked elegant in their gorgeous gowns, especially Jean Shafiroff, and the men wore black tie. It was a memorable event.


Lillo Brancato, Jr
, is starring in a documentary entitled Wasted Talent. I attended an after party for the film at Tuscany Steakhouse, 117 West 58th St. I photographed him with Noel Ashman, who produced the film, and enjoyed delicious Italian hors d'oeuvres and fine wine, while chatting with members of the film's creative team and actors from the cast.

 

Broadway Belts for PFF, at Edison Ballroom, 240 West 47th St, was a lovely affair, with Julie Halston as the Emcee. Among the many guests and performers was Robert Creighton.

 

A Toast to the Artist honored librettist and director Dick Scanlan at the Transport Group Gala at the Current at Chelsea Piers at Pier 59. It was a lovely affair with many guests like Michael Mayer and performers.

 

The League of Professional Theatre Women presented the Theatre Women Awards at the Timescenter, 242 West 41st St, with an Awards Ceremony and Champagne Toast. As always, it was a wonderful event. Among the six worthy winners, actress Phylicia Rashad received the Lifetime Achievement Award and Linda Winer received the LPTW Special Award. Among the presenters were NY1 Roma Torre and actress Celia Keenan-Bolger. The host was Florencia Lozano. After the ceremony over glasses of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, we chatted with the awardees, presenters, and the many, many guests, who support this marvelous organization, which works for women to succeed in the theatre community. It was a delightful, thoughtful and intelligent evening. I congratulated Mahayana Landowne and Ludovica Villar-Hauser, the Co-VPs of Programming.

 

Gingold Theatrical Group's St. Patrick's Day 2018 Golden Shamrock Gala was held at 3 West Club, 3 West 51st St. Actress Martha Plimpton and Tom Viola were the honorees. Artistic Director David Staller introduced many of the celebrities who attended, like Tyne Daly and Allison Fraser, who posed for me with a mockup of George Bernard Shaw, whose plays the Gingold Theatrical Group presents. As I had to attend Part 2 of Angels in America, I could only stay for the lovely reception.


Pia Lindstrom
 and William Ivey Long were among the guests at the American Theatre Wing's 21st Annual Jonathan Larson Grants recognizing emerging creators of musical theatre at Jerome Green Space, 44 Charlton St. where the grantees performed. A reception with delicious hors d'oeuvres and fine wine preceded the presentation.

 

Founding Artistic Director Susan Charlotte presented Cause Celebre Musical Brunch Series at Chez Josephine, 414 West 42nd St, one of my favorite restaurants. KT Sullivan performed Songs by 29 Women and 2 Men!, accompanied by Jon Weber at the piano. As well as watching a fine performer, the guests enjoyed a delicious lunch of a choice from three appetizers, followed by a choice from three entrees and a special dessert, with a choice of a cocktail or wine. It is always a lovely event. Following the three hour luncheon, certain guests were invited to Susan's penthouse for fine conversation with a glass of wine.


MCC Theater presented MISCAST 2018 at the Hammerstein Ballroom. The honoree was Laurie Metcalf. Among the multitude of guests and performers were James Monroe Iglehart, Michael Esper and Alison Pill. The evening began with a cocktail reception followed by dinner and a performance. It is always a lovely event.

 

I went to Treadwell Park, 1125 1st Ave, for A Night of Classics, celebrating the work and writing of Michael Jackson: The Beer Hunter. There are Talks and Tastings in The Cellar beginning 6:30pm. There are three more different talks each half hour  at 7, 7:30 and 8 with speakers and samples of beer. They include Schneider Aventinus, Saison Dupont, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Cascade Hops and Dogfish Head 90 Minutes. I tasted Saison Dupont, St.Bernardus Tripel and Cask: Greene King Abbot Ale. All three were delicious. The restaurant has a full bar, with 20 selections of Draught Beer, and Bottled Beer from many countries. I tasted a fine Sauvignon Blanc La Petite Perriere from France, 2016. It also serves food from an extensive menu, plus a weekend brunch. Beer lovers rejoice! You have a wonderful restaurant in which to indulge your favorite beer.


The National Chorale 
is celebrating its 50th Anniversary. My good friend, Artistic Director Everett McCorvey leads this magnificent group, and is presenting Beethoven's 9th Symphony at Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center, on Friday, April 13. Before the concert, there will be a grand reception, a fundraiser, with a brief musical performance and a silent auction for benefactors, supporters, contributors and friends. The Chorale also supports music in New York’s public schools with its Artists in Residence vocal programs. The highlight of this program is their partnership with the Professional Performing Arts School which provides a pre-conservatory style vocal program in which 72 students perform. Their annual school choral festivals display the prodigious talents of multiple New York City elementary, middle and high school choruses. Board member Peter Perlman is sponsoring the reception at the Phillips Club, 155 West 66th St. It will be a grand occasion to show your generosity to this wonderful organization. To contribute, please contact The National Chorale, 1650 Broadway, Suite 301, New York, NY 10019, (212) 333-5333.

 

I attended an intimate party for Andre Holland, who is directing Dutch Masters, by Greg Keller, at the Wild Project from April 3-April 21. It took place at Tuscany Steakhouse, 117 West 58th St, where delicious hors d'oeuvres were served with fine wine. Ian Duff, who is one of the two cast members in the play, attended. It was a delightful party.

 

Books

 

I received Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway Revolution, by Todd S. Purdum, 2018, published by Henry Holt and Company. Every theatre lover should purchase this book. The composer Richard Rodgers and the lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II produced some of the finest musicals ever to appear on Broadway, beginning with Oklahoma! in 1943 and ending with The Sound of Music. Many were made into magnificent film musicals. The writer describes the background of the two brilliant men, and tells about their success and failures. They were fascinating personalities, and there is an honest assessment of their personal life as well as their professional life. I found it hard to put the book down. I had to read every page, and I enjoyed every minute reading it. Wonderful stars of the age tell anecdotes about working with these fine gentlemen, and I am thrilled to write that I photographed many of them and became friends with these stars whom I admired. Who can forget Ethel Merman, Yul Brynner, Mary Martin, Julie Andrews and Stephen Sondheim? I recommend this book, and you will be well rewarded reading and treasuring it. It will be a splendid addition to your library.