By Myra Chanin
I know, I know. I say this almost every month, but only because it’s absolutely true almost every month, so …
THE MOST RECENT INSTALLMENT OF RICKY RITZEL’S BROADWAY WAS THE ABSOLUTELY BEST EPISODE EVER!!!
For those not in the know, Ricky Ritzel’s Broadway materializes physically on the last Friday night of every month at 7 pm at Don’t Tell Mama, except around Christmas and when Ricky goes on vacation. Each episode includes Ricky dissecting, gossiping and reporting quirky facts about three different past Broadway musicals before The Really Ready for Prime-Time Players restore each score to a peak of glory via their Tony-worthy performances.
On October 26th, the all-based-on-TV-shows Man of La Mancha, Ballroom, and Victor/Victoria filled the bill and were magnificently brought back to life by the singing/dancing/acting of Tommy J. Dose, Jon Satrom, Tara Matinez, Marta Sanders, Kathy Kaeffer, Aaron Morishita, Deborah Zecher, Lennie Watts, Sidney Myer, Kathleen France and Alison Nusbaum in a particularly packed showroom thanks to Scott Barbarino’s selecting Ricky’s Broadway as the Top Pick of the Week on Nitelife Exchange.
How packed? So packed that even the slimmed down Ricky could barely slither along the aisle to his on-stage “Steinway.”
The first offering, Man of La Mancha was “inspired” by Dale Wasserman’s TV play within a play which told the story of Don Q. as performed by Cervantes and fellow prisoners, awaiting a hearing from the Spanish Inquisition. In other words, faithful to neither fact or fiction.
The original choice for lyricist, the prize-winning English-American poet W. H. Auden, wrote satiric lyrics that attacked the bourgeois audiences needed for a five Tony Award-winning, 2328 performance run. His replacement, the experienced Joe Darion and composer Mitch Leigh, a Brooklyn-born advertising jingle-writing son of a Ukrainian furrier, produced immortal, inspirational ballads, sung by Tommy J. Dose, whose soaring, sweet, tenor and angelic face transformed the title song into an anthem — even with Ricky singing harmony as Don Q’s love-slave Sancho Panza – and made “Dulcinea,” the mad knight’s dream name for Aldonza, a whore, and “The Impossible Dream,” impossible to forget. Even more powerful was Tara Martinez spitting out Dulcinea ne Aldonza’s actual shattering history:
I was spawned in a ditch By a mother who left me there,
Naked and cold and too hungry to cry;
I never blamed her. I’m sure she left hoping
That I’d have the good sense to die!
… My father was some regiment here for an hour,
So I became, as befitted my delicate birth,
The most casual bride of the murdering scum of the earth!
Next? Ballroom, Michael Bennett’s post-A-Chorus-Line effort was based on Jerome Kass’s Emmy Award winning teleplay, The Queen of the Stardust Ballroom, a critical and rating success that won several Emmys, about a lonely widow who becomes romantically involved with a Shakespeare-spouting mailman she meets at a local dance hall and settles for any percent of him when she learns he’s married.
Because Bennett preferred movement to words, he cut several terrific Billy Goldenberg tunes with the most honest, character revealing and least maudlin Alan and Marilyn Bergman ever lyrics, and replaced them with non-character-defining forgettable generic bandstand singer songs. Sidney Myer, as usual, tugged at hearts with “I Wish You a Waltz,” Bea’s response to becoming Queen of the Stardust Ballroom but the real showstopper in the segment was Marta Sanders, not only a powerful singer, but a brilliant and deliberate actress, who displayed Bea’s fighting her anxiety and discomfort when she stands outside the ballroom in “A Terrific Band and a Real Nice Crowd,” and her rage and shame for settling for “Fifty Percent.” Singer’s completely non-romantic approach to this bare bones’ honest lyrics, was differently moving and more real than Marilyn Maye’s delivery, which up till then sat alone on my version of Cabaret’s highest peak. Well, now it has Marta’s 50% for company.
Billy Goldenberg happened to be in the room and was equally stunned with the blatant reality of Marta Sander’s interpretation. Michael Bennett destroyed a cudda-been formidible show. Thanks to his meddling, it closed after 116 performances.
Victor/Victoria with libretto by Blake Edwards, lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and music by Henry Mancini and Frank Wildhorn is based on the 1933 German film comedy of the same name, written and directed by Reinhold Schunzel, a Jewish filmmaker who, despite being awarded the title of Honorary Aryan and allowed to work by the Nazis, described Hitler as “a person of recognized authority and the worst possible dramatic taste.”
The plot deals with conventional Weimar Republic Berlin Cabaret shtick – convincing the most successful agent in Paris that Victoria, a frail impoverished soprano, is Count Victor Grazinski, a gay Polish female impersonator. Natcherly, mayhem and comedy ensue.
Alison Nusbaum was stately as Victor/Victoria, but the most mind-boggling performer in the final third was Kathleen France, hilariously LOL funny and yet endearing as Norma Cassidy, the ditzy moll of King Marchand, a shady Chicago nightclub owner who falls in love with Victor/Victoria, both of them. Kathleen’s movements, her facial expressions, her delivery of rhymes like these:
Paris makes me horny; It’s not like “Californy”
Paris is so dizzy; Jack , it’s such an aphrodisiac!
When I see the Eiffel Tower, I have to go and take a shower.
Dinin’ at the Lido loosens my libido.
Her anthem to Chicago is equally delicious:
The White Sox and the Cubs and other sporting clubs
Make living here a pretty nifty ploy.
Smack on the lake, this is the report!
Someday, they say, we’ll have an airport!
When the show ended, both newbies or regulars were so busy telling each other how extraordinary the performance had been that we had to be pushed out of the showroom by an incoming cast, so we hung around the front courtyard to praise, honor, compliment, extol Ricky et al. Ricky has perfected his Modus Operendi that no matter what shows he features, The More Than Ready for Prime-time Players all and all ways sound like Ready-for-Tony-Award winners.
Photos: Maryann Lopinto
November’s Ricky Ritzel’s Broadway will be performed at Don’t Tell Mama on Friday Night 11/30 at 7 pm. It will probably be the best one of all. Don’t Miss It.