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November 22, 1985 - Image 54

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-11-22

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54

Friday, November 22, 1985 THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

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BY MORT ZIEVE

Special to The Jewish News

This week we go to New York
for a review of the newest shows
and quick capsules on some of
the longer running ones.
Song & Dance (Royale
Theatre). This is the big new
musical the season. Before I
comment, I have to confess to
two prejudices: I think Ber-
nadette Peters, the star, is one
of the most talented people in
the theatre today; I think An-
drew Lloyd Webber, the com-
poser, is not.
Call me envious, but I think
Lloyd Webber is a mediocre, or-
dinary, much over-rated musi-
cian. Sure, I would give (almost)
anything to have written some
of his monster hits. But so much
of what he does is thin and bor-
ing. For example, there is a
"Letter Song" here, repeated ad
nauseum, that is drivel at its
worst. (Gracie Allen's spoken
letters to her mother had a lot
more musicality.)
Lloyd Webber does manage
one decent song per show and
that seems to be all it takes to
create smash hits for him. The
one tuneful, semi-original song
in this score is "The Unexpected
Song," and it is pretty although
I doubt it will achieve the hit
status of "Memories" from Cats.
Bernadette Peters is some-
thing else. She mesmerized me
when I first saw her, years ago,
in Dames at Sea, and she has
captivated me in everything
she's done. She takes the most
obvious material and gives it
depth and dimension. She has a
marvelous, big voice' and she
moves it beautifully between
ranges. On top of that, she's a
superb actress.
Here Peters is called on to be
the whole first half of the - show.
She is on stage alone and
through a series of songs
suggests a series of unhappy
love affairs. But, as good as she
is, I'd rather see, than have to
imagine, all the other char-
acters.
The second half of the show is
all dancing, starring Christ-
opher d'Amboise. -He is one of
Peters' Unseen boy-friends from
Act One. We know this because
he wears the same red boots and
red jacket that Peters clutched
in the earlier part of the show.
Several other dancers join
d'Amboise, and they are all
marvelous. The choreography is
fresh, vital and exciting. The
settings are colorful and con-
temporary.
But, as good as all the per-
formers are, this comes off as
more of an oh-so-clever theatri-
cal trick, rather than a treat.
So, I'm a spoilsport. You'll prob-
ably want to see Song & Dance
anyway.
I'm Not Rappaport (Booth
Theatre) is, on the other hand, a
play. And a very funny play, at
that, by Herb Gardner, famous
for A Thousand Clowns.
Here the play, while it works
well, is not the thing so much as
the stars. Judd Hirsch and
Cleavon Little are simply fabul-
ous.

Hirsch plays an 81-year-old
Jew. Little plays a 76-year-old
black man. They meet daily. on
a bench in Central Park and
share everything from
marijuana to memories.
Hirsch's character is a freshly
conceived "last-angry-man Bol-
shevik." He's angry at his
daughter because she has traded
Marx and Lenin for Bergdorf
and Goodman. He's an eccentric,
lovable, outrageous fantasizer.
Little is almost the complete
opposite. He's a skeptical realist.
He has learned to make the best
of what life deals him, rather
than flail against windmills as
Hirsch does. There are some
weak spots in the writing and.
the resolution is less than satis-
fying. But nonetheless Hirsch
and Little are irresistible.
As Is (Lyceum Theatre) hap-
pens to be the most moving play
on Broadway now. It's about a
man dying of AIDS and how he
inter-reacts with his lover, fam-
ily and friends.
The writing, acting and stag-
ing are flawless. There isn't a
weak moment or performance.
It's been a long time since
Broadway has had a serious
play of this caliber.
You might expect this to be a
depressing experience. But, sur-
prisingly, it is not. The story is
of how the characters triumph
over catastrophe, how they come
to know, understand, and finally
accept each other. You are de-
eply touched. The language and
situations are explicit and hon-
est. If you are offended or
shocked by frankly sexual mate-
rials, stay away. But, if you love
the theater and like to see a
good, serious play, then this is
definitely for you. It's a powerful
theatrical experience.
Big River (Eugene O'Neill
Theatre) was much more charm-
ing than I expected. Who doesn't
know the Huckleberry Finn
story? And mst of us know
Roger Miller's tuneful, if not
terribly original, country-style
music. It all combines into a big,
old-fashioned musical for a
lovely, pleasant evening.
Doubles (Ritz Theatre) —
Four men meet regularly to play
tennis. We see them in the
locker room, in various stages of
dress and undress (fair warning)
as they change before and after
the game. The humor is pretty
much on the TV sitcom level,
but you laugh in spite of your-
self.
Brighton Beach Memoirs (46th
Street Theatre) and Biloxi Blues
(Neil Simon Theatre) are two of
the best long-running shows in
New York. If you can only see
two shows in New York, make it
these. See Brighton Beach
Memoirs first. It's the first chap-
ter in Simon's autobiographical
duo. Then, continue the story in
Biloxi Blues, Simon's master-
piece.
You'll laugh your head off,
you'll cry, you'll be moved.
They're both great theater —
comedy at its best.

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