My Glorious Return to Ricky Ritzel’s Glorious Broadways

Michael Kirk Lane and Cast (Seussical)

 

By Myra Chanin

 

Monsieur Rick, Don’t Tell Mama, but I’ve been away from youse a long time! Only two months but long enough to realize I missed Ricky Ritzel and his More Than Ready for Prime Time Players high kick their way through one of the best Ricky Ritzel Broadways on record. Ricky’s Broadway series have been winning ecstatic fans since July 10, 2015 when Madame Sidney Myer’s Dolly Levi stepped on stage in a wig and feathers to tumultuous applause. In the interim, RRB has won four consecutive MAC Awards for Best Recurring Musical Series, the 2019 Bistro Award for Outstanding Musical Series and has been nominated for its fifth MAC in 2020.

Every Ricky Ritzel’s Broadway is a new and unique adventure, in which Ricky selects three Broadway musicals, a mix of boffo, so-so and grosso, but regardless of how critics mangled each one on opening night, Ricky’s More than Ready for Prime Time Players make each melody sound like it belongs in the top third of the Broadway musical bell-shaped curve.

I celebrated Leap Year in person with Ricky et al on February 28 when his Broadway opened with Seussical, starring Horton, a compassionate elephant who discovers a microscopic speck of dust that’s actually a planet inhabited by Whos, and places it and them on a clover where he can guard them. The plot included every creature ever conceived by Dr. Seuss and a very serviceable score by Flaherty and Ahrens. Seussical endured endless modifications and replacements. Nothing helped. Widely panned, it closed the following year, noteworthy for its enormous losses. But, to quote my sainted Aunt Fanny, if you live long enough, you live to see everything. Seussical is now raking in royalties from constant school and regional theaters performances.

 

Jon Satrom, Tara Martinez

 

Michael Kirk Lane in an adorable winter beard as The Cat in the Hat opened the show with “The Thinks You Can Think.” Tommy J. Dose’s Horton was sweetly extraordinary, and made you smile with your heart at his gentle innocence and shed a tear when he and leading-man-handsome Jon Satrom describe feeling alone in the universe. Laura Pavles, a spirited, vivacious Mayzie-bird, was addicted to plumage enhancing meds and her separated-at-birth sister-bird Tara Martinez finally caught Horton’s eye and won his heart with the last of her feathers.

 

Ricky Ritzel

Tanya Moberly

Sidney Myer

 

Next, Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones turned a hit play about a fourposter bed into I Do, I Do, a budget musical which appealed to cheapskate producer David Merrick because it had minimal sets and costumes and Gower Champion choreographing a two Broadway Legend cast of Mary Martin and Robert Preston. Preston won his second Tony playing husband Michael. Walter Kerr found their performances great but described the work as light and cliched, Still, I Do, I Do, ran for a year and a half. The tale of a 50-year marriage between Michael and Agnes begins with them madly in love, and stays with them as they work their way up to mostly mad. Watching Ricky Ritzel and Tanya Moberly as the “happy couple” made me feel right at home. Tanya was remarkable as “Flaming Agnes,” getting imaginary revenge after Ricky reveals his infidelity with a younger woman. Sidney Myer, usually the comedic peak of each RRB, displayed his tender side singing the lone hit from the score, “My Cup Runneth Over” in a most loving way.

 

KT Sullivan

 

Yippee! KT Sullivan as Fashion Editor Liza Elliott, the Lady in the Dark, made one of the most elegant and sophisticated musicals roles ever written totally her own. The Lady was created by three geniuses. Kurt Weill, not a mere tunesmith, but a genuine composer with at least one perfectly discordant masterpiece, Threepenny Opera, already among his oeuvre, supplied the score. Lyrics came from the imagination and wit of Ira Gershwin, George’s baby bro. The libretto was written by Moss Hart, author of Act One, one of the most honest autobiographies even penned. Lady in the Dark was a grateful tribute from Hart to Hart’s psychoanalyst, who ended Hart’s being the and attached to George S. Kaufman and turned Hart into the major player he should always have been. Weill’s music was heard in three extended dream sequences; actually three small operettas integrated into a straight play, which musically depicted an ambitious woman finally finding herself.

KT stepped on Mama’s stage looking absolutely gorgeous in a sleek royal blue dress and a see-through feathered navy blue coat that strutted its stuff as she strutted her stuff and sang the verse of the very swinging “One Life to Live.”

 

There are many minds in circulation believing in reincarnation
In me you see one who doesn’t agree.
Challenging popular affronts, I believe I’ll only live once
And I want to make the most of it
If there’s a party, I want to be the host of it
If there’s a haunted house, I want to be the ghost of it
If there’s a town, I want to be the toast of it!

And she certainly was.

Sigh! When will we hear lyrics that clever and a tune that memorable again. Only if there’s a musical Valhalla.

KT continued with “My Ship,” a gorgeous, haunting melody heard throughout the show when Liza Elliott ruminates about her elusive past. She finally sings it totally when Liza learns who she is and what she wants.

 

Mark Nadler

 

But, first, there’s the inimitable vaudevillian Mark Nadler’s “Tschaikowsky,” a rhyming list of fifty Russian composers that launched Danny Kaye’s career. Ira took some liberties with the names, like “Dukelsky”; the birth name of Vernon Duke, an American composer of Russian ancestry. It didn’t bother Mark. He rattled them off at top speed and one-upped Kaye because he Wow! tap-danced while he sang.

“The Saga of Jenny,” KT’s closing number is a sort of a blues bordello. It’s from the dream sequence in which Liza Elliott defends her indecision about marriage by telling a tale about Jenny, “whose virtues were varied and many … excepting that she was inclined always to make up her mind.” Jenny’s decisive nature is blamed for multiple disasters and the moral of the song is “don’t make up your mind.” KT knocked it, not just out of the ball park, but over the centerfield fence as the audience cheered!

Photos: Maryann Lopinto

Next month: March 27th at 7 pm at Don’t Tell Mama, 343 W. 46th Streert, Ricky Ritzel’s Broadway resects Bajour,

The Apple Tree & South Pacific.

 

 

 

 

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