Theater News Online
free issue
London Theatre Reviews
NY Theater Reviews
LTN Recommendations
NYTN Recommendations
Book Reviews
Movie Reviews
London Theatre Archives
NY Theater Archives
Latest New York News
Latest London News
NY News Archives
London News Archives
Peter Filichia's Monday Quiz
Dining and Travel
London Theatre Listings
NY Broadway Listings
Off-Broadway Listings
London Tickets
Advertise with us

Subscribe
Renew
Give a Gift


Logo

Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
THE ROYAL FAMILY
at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

THE SHOW MUST GO ON
By BILL STEVENSON

  (L to R) Rufus Collins, Rosemary Harris and Reg Rogers/ Ph: Joan Marcus

Manhattan Theatre Club's revival of George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's 1927 comedy The Royal Family boasts a wonderful cast headed by Rosemary Harris and Jan Maxwell, as well as an elegant set by John Lee Beatty and gorgeous period costumes by Catherine Zuber. Overall it's an enjoyable production, but even an ideal cast can't hide the fact that the three-act play is too long (two hours and forty minutes) and rather dated. While director Doug Hughes moves the action along briskly most of the time, a few scenes drag.
 
Kaufman and Ferber's story harks back to the glory days of New York theater, when Broadway actors were a kind of royalty. The troupers in The Royal Family are the Cavendish clan, who bear more than a passing resemblance to the Barrymores. Fanny (Harris) is the matriarch, a stage veteran who holds court in her bustling, overstuffed duplex apartment. Her diva of a daughter Julie (Maxwell) has followed in Fanny's footsteps as a leading lady. Not surprisingly, Julie's daughter Gwen (Kelli Barrett) is a promising ingénue. But Gwen plans to marry a young stockbroker (Freddy Arsenault) who wants his wife to give up acting. Meanwhile, wealthy Gilbert Marshall (Larry Pine) returns to woo Julie, tempting her to give up the stage.
 
Stirring things up further is the glamorous, rakish Tony Cavendish (Reg Rogers), who has returned from Hollywood followed by a swarm of fans and reporters. Fanny's brother Herbert (John Glover) is, naturally, an actor too. But compared to the flashy Tony, he's mild-mannered and subdued. Herbert's wife Kitty (Ana Gasteyer), on the other hand, is loud, vulgar, and annoying. The family's business manager, Oscar Wolfe (Anthony Newfield), tolerates Kitty but is devoted to Fanny and Julie. (Newfield stepped in for Tony Roberts for a few performances after Roberts suffered a seizure; Roberts returned to the role on opening night.)
 
Hughes and his tireless cast convey the chaotic nature of the Cavendish's apartment. The use of overlapping dialogue is effective, and the energy level picks up whenever Tony leaps around the stage like a swashbuckler (or John Barrymore). The servants Della (Caroline Stefanie Clay) and Jo (David Greenspan) frantically try to keep the daily craziness from spinning out of control.
 
The play's richest characters are the most theatrical members of the family—Fanny, Julie, and Tony—and Harris, Maxwell, and Rogers ham it up just enough without overdoing it. Harris earned a Tony nomination when she played Julie in a 1975 Broadway revival of The Royal Family. Her graceful, heartfelt turn as Fanny couldn't be better, and one hopes that Tony voters will remember it in the spring. Maxwell gives one of her best performances to date as Julie, who is as melodramatic offstage as on. And Rogers is suitably dashing and self-absorbed as the family's resident matinee idol.
 
Unfortunately, some of the supporting roles are much less colorful, and a few scenes could use trimming. There are plenty of entertaining moments, particularly in the second act when Maxwell and Rogers cut loose. At other times, though, The Royal Family feels a bit musty.
 


SUBSCRIBE TO New York Theater News
SUBSCRIBE TO London Theater News

SCHEDULE UPDATES -
Yes, Prime Minister contracts its run, while A Chorus Line expands its own.
POWERHOUSE OF THEATRE - After 11 years as the Almeida Theatre's artistic director, Michael Attenborough is stepping down to focus on directing. 

SONGS FROM THE HEART - Once the Tony-Award winning musical is set to hit London in January.


Wine, Fruit, and Gourmet Gift Baskets.
Privacy Notice   |   Front Page
Copyright © TheaterNewsOnline.com. All Rights Reserved.