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November 1, 2013

October’s Leftovers and November’s Brainteaser

What was the worst-received show of the month? No, not THE SNOW GEESE, but the interminable half-hour documentary that preceded the broadcast of MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG. Worse, because it revealed at least a dozen moments from the show itself, it killed many elements of surprise when we FINALLY got to see the show and production itself. The amount of (justifiable) vitriol leveled against this infomercial was worse than theatergoers’ reactions to the play AND the musical of BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S lumped together.

(My reaction to the production itself? Check out my column at

As for THE SNOW GEESE, I certainly appreciated one perception that Mary-Louise Parker’s character said to one of her very judgmental sons: “I wish you’d learn to give people a little more foible room.” Yes, our friends, relatives – and we -- could all benefit from getting a little more.

That I’ve never seen the film version of A TIME TO KILL may not surprise you, but that I’ve never seen an episode of LAW & ORDER probably will. Anyway, this makes me a good candidate to like A TIME TO KILL on stage because I don’t have much TV or film experience with courtroom trials (or, thank God, in real life) and I never read John Grisham’s novel.

Playwright Rupert Holmes and director Ethan McSweeny certainly stressed the details. Lee Sellars, as Billy Ray Cobb, the unrepentant rapist of the 10-year-old, comes into the courtroom and looks directly and unapologetically at Carl, her father. He’s virtually saying, “Hey, I’m white, and you’re only black, and this is still Mississippi, so I can do what I want.” Notice, too, Tijuana T. Ricks, playing the court stenographer. We can see that she’s felt for years that she’ s little more than a machine; now, however, she reacts in horror when she hears the charge. In other words, she’s heard everything – until now.

No wonder that Carl snaps and kills Billy Ray and the other rapist. What a sobering stage picture comes next. After we’ve seen the two accused men in orange jumpsuits in the first two scenes, we next see Carl in his orange jumpsuit. The image suggests that all criminals are created equal, but as both the circumstances and the script have informed us, they are not.

The best playwriting has each party of an argument come out with the most convincing reasons for an opinion. Holmes via John Grisham gets them in when Carl is visited by his wife Gwen, who’s certainly not in favor of his vigilantism.

I’ve interviewed Patrick Page, and I can’t find him anywhere in
Rufus R. Buckley, the smarmy and supercilious district attorney. We don’t merely want him taken down a peg or two, but about the same number that PEG O’ MY HEART played Broadway performances (603). There’s a telling moment when Rufus feels free to slap novice lawyer Ellen Roark on the gluteus maximus; her back is to us at that moment, and we see her stop for a second … and then continue her walk, deciding not to make an issue of it because she dares not to.
In other scenes, just the way that Page gets up from the chair, walks forward and buttons his jacket tells you that he believes he’s a very important man.

He’s walking to center stage and looking out because the fourth wall is where the jury is situated. Has anyone before ever thought of making the audience the twelve angry men and/or women? What a smart idea! It saves the production a dozen salaries (or, in the case of CHICAGO, one).

October was also the month that a Halloween costume shop took temporary residence at what used to be Colony Records. In other words, the store at 49th and Broadway went from scary prices to scary outfits.

It was also the month that MONSTERS UNIVERSITY debuted on DVD. Nice to know that Kate Monster did so well with her Monstersori School that she’s now moved on to the college level.

Guess what the Hoboken Children’s Theatre is doing next? CARRIE. My, children’s theater has changed since I was a child! (Nov. 22-24, by the way.)

On a more adult level, The Delaware Theatre Company is doing a benefit performance of LOVE LETTERS with Delaware’s Governor Jack Markell portraying Andrew Makepiece Ladd III and his wife Carla portraying Melissa Gardner. The family that does plays together stays together. Hey, wouldn’t it be something if we got more productions of the play in which a former governor of New York and his wife – or a former governor of New Jersey and HIS wife – OR a former member of the House of Representatives and HIS wife – AND – well, we COULD go on, but if you’re in Wilmington on Nov. 16, do see the devoted Markells doing the Gurney play.

Saw the first performance of the new touring company of EVITA – and found that the show isn’t as well-known as it once was. Exhibit A: you know that thrilling moment in “And the Money Kept Rolling In (and Out)” in which you hear no music at all for a measure? And I don’t mean the moment is thrilling because we don’t hear any Andrew Lloyd Webber music; I mean that the silence makes for such tension. Anyway, once the silence occurred in Providence, many in the audience applauded, for they had assumed that the song had ended. Here’s hoping that many who were introduced to EVITA here will get the cast album and play it so often that they’ll never make that mistake again.

Irony of the month: In GETTIN’ THE BAND BACK TOGETHER at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey, a character named Sully says he plans to audition for Curly in a production of OKLAHOMA! He also mentions that he has a subscription to the Paper Mill Playhouse. Here’s the irony: playing Sully was the ever-so-gifted and appealing Adam Monley, who has appeared at the Paper Mill Playhouse as – yes -- Curly in a 2008 production of OKLAHOMA!

You know what singer is an unsung hero of musical theater? Cynthia Crane. On her albums and in her act, Crane does many a pop song and standard from The Great American Songbook, but she also puts forth many discoveries from such lesser shows as POUSSE CAFÉ, GREENWILLOW, JAMAICA, PIPE DREAM, NYMPH ERRANT, STRIP FOR ACTION and 70, GIRLS, 70. (By the way, she’s a very good singer, too.) Have a listen!

Longtime readers who are quickly scanning the column may have assumed when they saw the titles POUSSE CAFÉ, GREENWILLOW, JAMAICA, PIPE DREAM, NYMPH ERRANT, STRIP FOR ACTION and 70, GIRLS, 70 that they were about to be given a brainteaser. No – I’ll get to that in a moment.

In the meantime, here’s the answer to last month’s brainteaser: What do the following songs have in common? The answer was that each was introduced by a person whose name contained an apostrophe: “Ah, Paree!” (FOLLIES), Fifi D’Orsay; “Anna Lilla” (NEW GIRL IN TOWN), Cameron Prud’homme; “At the Fountain” (SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS), Brian D’Arcy James; “I’m Outta Here” (GHOST), Da’Vine Joy Randolph; “Keys” (PASSING STRANGE), De’Adre Aziza; “Knowing When to Leave” (PROMISES, PROMISES), Jill O’Hara; “The Miller’s Son” (A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC), D’Jamin Bartlett and “Revenge” (“IT’S A BIRD, IT’S A PLANE, IT’S SUPERMAN”), Michael O’Sullivan.

Jack Lechner was the first to get it, followed by Stuart Ira Soloway and David H. Cohen. And this month’s brainteaser? Many a Pulitzer and Tony-winner originally played a theater that has a different name from the one it has now: THE TEAHOUSE OF THE AUGUST MOON at the Martin Beck; HOW TO SUCCEED at the 46th Street. But the property I’m thinking of was the ONLY show to play at this theater while it had this name. (Get it? The production that came before and the one that came after were at the same theater, but each of those two times it had a different name.) What’s the name of the show and what was the name of the theater for that one outing?

You know where to find me.

         — Peter Filichia

You may e-mail Peter at

Check out his weekly column each Tuesday at

and each Friday at

His book, Strippers, Showgirls, and Sharks: A Very Opinionated History of Musicals That Did Not Win the Tony Award,
is now available at

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