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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at Town Hall


"Welcome to the Theater," from Applause, is a classic Broadway anthem, made famous by Lauren Bacall in the 1970 Lee Adams-Charles Strouse musical. No one has matched Bacall's renowned version. But on June 15 at Town Hall, in the final concert of the Broadway by the Year series' ninth season, special guest star Tovah Feldshuh  offered a rousing rendition, with a voice sometimes reminiscent of her esteemed predecessor.

It was further proof that Broadway by the Year, created, written and hosted by Scott Siegel, should become an essential part of any stage musical aficionado's theatergoing schedule.  

Nineteen-seventy is unlikely to be anyone's idea of a favorite year. The Vietnam War continued, with the United States invading Cambodia and young soldiers dying daily. William Calley went on trial for the My Lai massacre. At Kent State University, Ohio national guardsmen opened fire during an antiwar demonstration, killing four youths.

A little more than a mile and a half north, in the microcosmic world of the Broadway musical, it was not anyone's favorite year either. Still, there were some worthwhile or at least interesting shows - The Rothschilds, Applause, Purlie, Minnie's Boys, Two by Two, The Me Nobody Knows. And, in April 1970, a landmark American musical made its first appearance: Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Company, directed by Harold Prince with musical staging by Michael Bennett.

Regardless of the year, Broadway by the Year always provides a fun evening, a delight for musical cognoscenti. And this concert was no exception. It featured 24 songs, so it's not possible to mention them all. But the highlights included Max von Essen's  moving and powerful version of "Being Alive" from Company, preceded by Scott Coulter, Jeffrey Denman (the evening's director and choreographer) and von Essen performing Sondheim's Sorry Grateful, perhaps the master's definitive statement on the dual nature - as Siegel put it, the desire and regret - of human relationships.

Darius de Haas and the series' superb tap dancer, Kendrick Jones,  lent authority and spirit to "New Fangled Preacher Man" from Purlie Jones, Denman and Meredith Patterson (Denman's partner in last season's White Christmas on Broadway), brought humor and tap buoyancy to "Side by Side by Side" from Company and Martin Vidnovicc magnified the strength of the antiwar sentiments in Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock's "My Own Lifetime" from The Rothschilds.

Stephen DeRosa  showed why the largely forgotten but sweet and beautiful love song "Empty" from Hal Hackady and Larry Grossman's Minnie's Boys should no longer be forgotten (Hackady and Grossman, by the way, were in the audience). Walter Willison , from the original cast of Richard Rodgers and Martin Charnin's Two by Two, brought back "I Do Not Know a Day I Did Not Love You," another tender love song, dedicating it to Joan Copeland, who appeared in the show and was seated up front. And Coulter gave simple charm to "The Tree" from The Me Nobody Knows, with music by Gary William Friedman and lyrics by Will Holt, which was based on poems written by ghetto children and deserves a Broadway revival.

Not all was perfect. That Slavery Is Love," from Cry for Us All, by William Alfred, Phyllis Robinson and Mitch Leigh, based on the 1965 play Hogan's Goat, showed why the musical closed after nine performances. And special guest star Ute Lemper's version of "The Ladies Who Lunch" from Company was, unfortunately, self-indulgent, super-inebriated, over the top - a disaster. Perhaps she was trying to separate herself from Elaine Stritch's iconic version. Well, she did.

But enough with the negatives, of which there were a minimum. The evening ended, appropriately, with the entire cast singing the title number from Applause.  They all deserve much applause, indeed a standing ovation, as does the series, and as does Siegel.

I for one can't wait for Season 10.





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