If you’ve never seen classically trained high baritone actor Simon Green or if you have seen him in his previous Noel Coward shows, you should make a reservation immediately for his new one, “So, This Then Is Life” at 59 East 59 Theaters. This is a very exciting and energetic one man show.
The show is about looking back at yourself at age 21 and includes statements, poetry, and songs in glorious collaboration with musical director David Shrubsole, whose supporting chords are very strongly Sondheim in nature. There are five more performances this weekend and I’d call the box office immediately to reserve this show in Theatre B which is upstairs on the third floor, a beautiful intimate band box space. Although the show’s length is only 95 minutes, Green’s vigor and dramatic renditions are so robust, that it almost seems exhausting to watch him.
Any show that begins with a recitation of Walt Whitman’s writing “Victory, Union, Faith” and a song with the words of Daphne du Maurier and the music by Shrubsole, lets you know you are seeing something very rare. It is followed immediately by Victoria Saxton and Schrubsole’s “Dear Me” which sets the pace … letters to yourself at age 21 and what you would advise yourself if you could reach out to that 21 year old. Noel Coward is included…”Let’s Live Dangerously” and “Alice Is At It Again,” Coward’s special philosophy and one of his wildest comedy numbers.
Yes, we get A. E. Houseman’s “When I Was One-And-Twenty” and Maya Angelou’s bittersweet “Soft You Day.” There’s a P.G. Wodehouse quote about on-stage nudity followed by Coward’s “Time and Again” and “Wait a Bit, Joe.”
There’s an extraordinary poem by Tennessee Williams entitled “Life Story” about sex with a pickup in a hotel (Green give a wonderful dramatic performance) with its ironic ending, followed by Tom Lehrer’s comic “I Got It From Agnes.” Duncan Sheik’s “Genius” is gently ironic.
The second Whitman poem is “When I Heard at the Close of Day,” an openly gay love poem set in Washington, DC when he was honored by being the poet laureate. Its love story leads right into “Out of This World” (Mercer/Arlen) and on this number Shrubsole does a full chorus during the break and his jazz playing is brilliant.
Towards the end of the show, after more reading of “Dear Me” letters, Green puts together Simon and Garfunkel’s “Old Friends/Bookends” with Sondheim’s “Old Friends” switching back and forth effortlessly and then into a same sex “Too Many Mornings” which he mixes with the angry “See What It Gets You.”
At the end of the show, after explaining and inviting the audience to come up and write their own “Dear Me’s” on a tablet left on the piano, Green recites an astonishing Philip Larkin poem entitled “I Have Started To Say” before singing a great Julian Slade/Dorothy Reynolds song “Time of My Life,” which deals with summer and sunshine. And then Green recites the opening quote from Whitman again which ends “Underfoot the divine soil—overhead the sun” so the great sun imagery is complete.
Green and Shrubsole received standing ovations. “So, This Then Is Live” repeats at 59 E 59 Friday at 8:15 PM, Saturday at 2:15 PM and 8:15 PM, and Sunday at 3:15 PM and 7:15 PM. Tickets are $35.00 and to purchase tickets call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or go to Whats On at 59E59 Theaters
*Photos: Carol Rosegg