42nd Street Moon hits the high seas with Coward’s Sail Away

Nov 01

42nd Street Moon hits the high seas with Coward’s <i>Sail Away</i>

Sail Away, the last musical for which the great Noël Coward wrote the whole shebang (book, music, lyrics), had two things going for it when it premiered on Broadway in 1961. First was the customary Coward wit, which shone in numbers like "The Passenger's Always Right" and "Why Do the Wrong People Travel?" And then there was the show's star, Elaine Stritch for whom Coward created the role of cruise hostess Mimi Paragon. Any show was better for having Stritch in it (Goldilocks anyone?), and the combination of her personality and Coward's charm should have proven irresistible.

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TheatreWorks delights with devilish Angels

Jun 08

TheatreWorks delights with devilish <i>Angels</i>

Boredom, desire and champagne make for a potent cocktail in Noël Coward's 1925 comedy Fallen Angels, now receiving a lively production from TheatreWorks at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.

Director Robert Kelley delivers an elegant outing for this zesty comedy that keeps its focus on two live wire ladies – Jane and Julia, best friends since grammar school.

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Sir Noël’s been Lansburied. Lucky Sir Noël.

Jan 22

Sir Noël’s been Lansburied. Lucky Sir Noël.

Is anyone in the theater world more spirited than Angela Lansbury? She has been giving great performances on stages and screens of various sizes for 70 years. She has every right to rest on her laurels and be adored as the legend she is. But not right now. She has work to do.

At 89 (you'd never know it by watching her on stage), Lansbury is taking a victory lap, a final North American tour in Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit. She is playing oddball spiritualist Madame Arcati in director Michael Blakemore's production (part of the SHN season). It's a role that earned her a fifth Tony Award in 2009. To be clear, this is as sturdy a production of Coward's 1941 comedy as you're likely to see, performed with wit, sophistication and, perhaps surprisingly, heart. The cast is excellent, the design just right and the sound (in the cavernous Golden Gate Theatre) startlingly clear. But you come to this production first and foremost for Lansbury, and she is every bit the warm and wonderful genius you want her to be.

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High on Cal Shakes’ spiffy Spirit

Aug 16

High on Cal Shakes’ spiffy <i>Spirit</i>

Noël Coward was a man of his time in many ways and maybe even ahead of his time in others. For instance, in the delightful 1941 play Blithe Spirit, now gracing the Orinda Hills in a handsome and well-tuned production from California Shakespeare Theater, Coward was way ahead of the ghastly Twilight curve.

No, he wasn't dealing with pale but attractive vampires and shirtless werewolves, but he did understand a little something about mixing mortality and romance. In the play, the ghost of a dead wife returns to haunt her husband and his new wife, but her real aim is to get her beloved to join her on the other side, and she's not above trying to kill him herself to accomplish that goal. To love someone enough to want to spend eternity with them is an intriguing concept, and thankfully Coward played it for laughs, with only a trace of the shadows poking through the peaked meringue of his comedy.

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Taking Steps toward a lively evening

Jan 26

Taking <i>Steps</i> toward a lively evening

A hit on London’s West End in 2006, The 39 Steps became Broadway’s longest-running comedy two years later. The touring production played San Francisco’s Curran Theatre in December of 2009, and now Mountain View’s TheatreWorks has cast it with a quartet of local favorites.

Under the direction of Artistic Director Robert Kelley, it’s hard to imagine a more enjoyable evening of mystery mayhem and slapstick espionage. Kelley has cast an irresistible quartet of actors to create the whirlwind, and the result is two hours of constant laughs.

Mark Anderson Phillips is Richard Hannay, a Canadian visiting London. Bored, he craves something mindless and trivial, so he goes to the theater. Naturally. There he meets a classic femme fatale, a German named Annabella Schmidt played by Rebecca Dines with an accent think as strudel.

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Theater Dogs changes, Cal Shakes’ Cowardly courage

Jul 18

Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. – Oscar Wilde What a tumultuous year it has been here at Theater Dogs. Thank you for taking the ride. The news is that I have jumped the fence, from writing about theater to working in theater. As the new communications manager for Berkeley Repertory Theatre, I find that I can no longer review Bay Area...

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