By Barbara & Scott Siegel
This column is devoted to performances. Frankly, the Fall season has sputtered so far, with only a relative handful of truly fine shows, but as everyone always says (and they say it correctly), there is no shortage of great actors in New York, only a shortage of great playwrights. Well, here is a sampling of some of the best acting we’ve seen in the last couple of months in shows both good and bad…
Starting with wonderful performances in equally wonderful shows, lengthen your stride and hurry to see Daddy Longs Legs at the Davenport Theatre on West 45th Street. It’s a gorgeous little jewel of a musical with two sensational performers, Megan McGinnis and Paul Alexander Nolan. Based on the novel by Jean Webster, rather than the Fred Astaire/Leslie Caron movie musical, the show gives us an achingly romantic book by John Caird, who also directs the show with stylish charm. The music by Paul Gordon is disarmingly warm and lovely, while Mr. Gordon’s lyrics are winningly clever. The show’s songs are delivered by McGinnis and Nolan with complete conviction, their combination of talent and chemistry burnishing the production with an extra sheen of brilliance. In an era of 10-15 million dollar musicals, the simplicity and beauty of Daddy Long Legs is refreshing.
Another winner, the revival of The New Morality at The Mint, is yet again another example of this company’s near perfect record for re-discovering lost gems. The play is a wonderful early examination of women fighting for power in their relationships with men. In terms of performance, however, Michael Frederic, playing a befuddled but loving husband, steals the show.
The critically acclaimed revival of Spring Awakening is a musical that seems made-to-order for the Deaf West Theater. But it is by no means perfect: there are plot problems you could drive a tank through, and lighting problems that make it frustratingly impossible, at times, to see who is singing. But the two romantic leads are sensational – and we daresay actually more credible than the originals. The non-singing Wendla, Sandra Mae Frank, is pure, sweet innocence, while the young actor playing Melchior, Austin P. McKenzie, is simply electric and entirely charismatic – and he seems absolutely young enough to suit the adorable Wendla.
Old Times, another Broadway revival, this by Harold Pinter and directed by Douglas Hodge for The Roundabout, is laborious but gets whatever spark it can muster from the talented threesome of Clive Owen, Eve Best, and Kelly Reilly. In particular, Eve Best is a treat to watch. Buying a ticket for the performances might be something you would only consider, though, if you have to see any Pinter play that comes to town. Otherwise, the acting might not be quite enough to make this worth your while.
Clever Little Lies at the Westside Theatre/Upstairs is selling its star Marlo Thomas as the reason to come see this sitcom on stage. And it might be working because she gets considerable entrance applause. The show is formulaic – though oftentimes funny. But the laughs come from the real star of the show, who gives a terrific comic performance, Greg Mullavey. Yes, Louise Lasser’s husband in the much-beloved Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Greg Mullavey continues to make us laugh and he is, al these years later, a sensational presence in this otherwise mediocre show. He is absolutely worth the price of admission!
Finally, from a show that has since closed titled The Black Book, let it be known that there is a bright young actor by the name of David Siciliano who gave a startlingly performance in an otherwise benumbing play. His kinetic acting made us sit up and take notice, and it rose above the material to such an extent that we’d suggest that when he shows up in another show, he’ll be they guy you’ll end up watching!