A FUNNY THING
HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO PINES. er,
By Jeannie Lieberman
Watch out Broadway – Glen Weilgus and his zany bunch of thespians should/could be on their way. This production
is as good and funny as anything I’ve seen lately on the White Way. Of course,
Broadway audiences would not have the privilege of knowing the “inside”
touches, like just who the Lichtenstein family is, but they would soon be won
The Pines Arts Project couldn’t have chosen a better play
with which to end their season. Both smart and hilariously funny, Burt Shevelove, was inspired to write a musical based on the
farcical plays of Titus Maccius Plautus (254-184 BC)
since the success he had with the idea in Yale. He called in Larry Gelbart and Stephen Sondheim and they extracted ideas that made
the shows crowd pleasers then from a compilation of 21 plays assuming
(correctly) they would still work.: the conniving slave, the doddering old man, the callow hero (named
Hero), the seductive courtesan, the lustful husband and his shrewish wife, and the macho warrior (one play
with a haunted house was named Mostellaria which was prophetic as Zero Mostel opened the play in 1962 in the role of Pseudolus, the slave who would do anything for his freedom.) Despite the
fame of director George Abbott, he had to call in Jerome Robbins (uncredited)
who decided to open the show with “Comedy tonight” which set the tone and
resulted in a 964 performance run. The show was the first as solo producer for
Harold Prince and the first for music and lyrics by Sondheim. Indeed it is rare
to experience the earlier, more melodic Sondheim, and his lyrics are just as
Phil Silvers succeeded Mostel in
the 1972 revival and was in the 1966 film version as Lycus along with Mostel and Jack Guilford from the original cast.
Director/set designer, Pines’ own Glen Weilgus has put his unique stamp on the production (the sets alone are funny),
combining talented professionals with local icons that inspire the laughter of
recognition from the receptive crowd.
jump started with none other than Rita Lichtenstein as Medea sacrificing her real life grandchildren, Molly & Sammy, driving the locals
to clap so loud you couldn’t hear her speak. And that tone remained throughout
meet the talented Tom Gamblin as Pseudolus, with his
two multi-talented sidekick Proteans (Tim Burke
and Daniel Charles McDonald) and the opening number, by now a show biz anthem,
“Comedy Tonight” sets the frenetic pace. When the company comes out in full
force and joins in it proves irresistible.
centers around Hero (charmingly played by sweet voiced
Rory Hughes) who is infatuated with a beautiful virgin courtesan next door in
Lycus’ house, and Pseudolus who just wants to be free. Leo Bullock is perfectly
cast as Hero’s easily befuddled dad, Senex. Mary T, Farrell, as Domina,
Hero’s mom, ‘though appropriately nasty, is much too pretty to play a shrew
(let’s hear it for the older women). They are off to the country to visit her
mother which opens the window of opportunity. “Love, I hear” the young man sings as Pseudolus, capitalizing
on his innocence and youthful lust, makes a deal for his freedom if he delivers
the girl, singing the first of many show stoppers, “Free”. In one
of the show’s best scenes (among many) we meet the easily duped Lycus (the
amusing James Duus plucked from the Grove theater
community) and his parade of courtesans as Psuedolus goes “shopping” for the girl. Of course, in this Pines production the twins Geminae, Jon Bond and Matthew Rich, are male (haven’t we
seen them before as pirates, and…….) Other succulent offerngs are Tintinabula (voluptuous Kathryn Lumpkin), Gymnasio (a supple Jason Kittelberger), Vibrata (Karine Plantadit
a ferocious tigress) and Panacea (Nancy Wierzbpwski).When
the stunning Philia , Mary Catherine McDonald (as
ever a proper Irish name for a courtesan) finally comes out, its love at first sight – they both
love her. “I have but one talent”
she boasts innocently, “I’m ‘Lovely’” She’s as vacuous as any modern day icon
(do Britney, or Jessica, or Lindsay or Paris ring a bell?)
trick Lycus into letting the girl stay in Hero’s house and the plot thickens when Hysterium, the major domo with a secret stash of porn,
played hilariously by Steven Alan Black – who just gets better and better
every year – joins Pseudolus & Lycus (who is convinced she has the
plague, don’t ask!) in pretending Philia is just a
maid to the unexpectedly returned Senex and Domina, providing the cue for the funny “Everybody Ought T9
Have A Maid” with Sondheim’s cleverest lyrics.
early in the play Jack Lichtenstein plays Erroneous, a doddering old man instructed by a soothsayer to march
around the 7 hills of Rome 7 times to find his long lost children who turn out
to be……….. Jack must have finally found the best part of his career as he never
played it better. Spot On!
general Miles Gloriousus, a great name, (Tom Vaughn)
comes to collect his pre-paid bride things get even more chaotic.
be too exhausting to further describe the plot but let me just ay the laughs
keep coming, the performances are terrific, the band , under Brian Allan Hobbs is bold and brassy n the true
Broadway tradition and producers Michael Savino and
Steven Alan Black are to be commended
opening number brought the house down
take a trip to mother’s house...and bring her head
me. Beautiful and dumb
shoot, er, stab!
anything you say, master
I just wanna be free…
– the wife is feeling frisky
– they both love her
lovely, absolutely lovely……..
could stand like this or……..
into a chorus kick line – guaranteed to bring the house down
show! Great time! Can’t wait for next year!
OUR FAVORITE THINGS
By Jeannie Lieberman
James Belzer, in his Cherry Grove debut
as director, created a saucy confection
spiced with spoofs of Broadway’s “favorite things”: selected
morsels from Sound of Music, Cabaret, West Side Story, South Pacific, Hello
Dolly, Funny Girl, Sweet Charity, Oliver, Hedwig & the Angry Inch, some
tin pan alley references and some, like Bella’s ode to menopause, ”A Woman of a Certain Age”, which defy
categorization. All with a Grove spin which borders on bawdy.
The lighter than air soufflé of a plot involves the Von Trapp
family as the Captain comes out of the closet (George McGarvey in a tour de force performance…and we
thought he was just a pretty face) and son Friedrich goes in (Bob Verbrugge jump starting his C.G. career). Under the
questionable tutelage of “Nana” Rose
Levine, singing “I am
Sixty Going on Seventy” (an understatement), Maria (lovely import Sarah Downs,
who has actually played her in the touring companies) goes on her own journey encouraged by Mother Abbess, Sherri Rase (who, between the high notes, managed, in her assumed
accent, to turn “can’t” into something unprintable which brought the house down
– such a comedienne!), then sends Sarah off to Bali Hai,
and she eventually falls in love with Bruce Michael Gelbert,
whose robust baritone never sounded better or more relaxed in “Some Enchanted
Evening” and “Maria” but especially creative in his revised rendition of “I
Love A Piano” to “I Love a Soprano….Christine or Gretyl,
she’ll show her mettle, whether in opera or Broadway, So you can keep your Merman
or JLo, Give me an s-o-p-r-a-n-o, Give me a diva and
I’ll shout viva, ‘cause her high tones are so grand,,,” bravo divo!
Then it becomes a potpourri of tasty and tasteless tidbits showcasing everyone’s “talents”: Bravo to James
for coaxing Porsche (who treated the crowd to her signature Joplin-esque
classic “Summertime” with the help of Denise’s hot trumpet), Margo and Coco
onto the stage. Stars are born! And importing, besides the versatile silver
voiced Sarah, long & lithe Kristi Ambrosetti, the sexiest eye candy to
grace a Grove stage, who can actually sing as well as dance! Welcome Anna Raykhtsaum and Carla Russo to the Grove stage.
Kudos also to director Belzer for
coaxing the best performance of his career out of Bill Perez’ rendition of “Reviewing
the Situation”. Spot on! The always adorable couple, Barbara Hirsch and
Linda Dickerman, offered their numbers, a zany “Dites Moi” and “I Got You
Babe”, once again proving their versatility. Petite Jackie Presti is adorable and sexy and holds her own sandwiched
between the long legged lovelies of both genders – the girl not only has
charm but spunk
Saving the best for last I am assuming (by process if elimination)
that the chaste sounding name of Robert Brook Allen belongs to the anything but Ann Phetermine,
who made her debut a few years ago and has been unstoppable (uncontrollable)
ever since. I believe there is
nothing he won’t do onstage. or off. Dale Lally (who just two years ago was a new face in the chorus)
also unleashed his abundant over the top persona just two years ago and has
emerged from a new face in the chorus to this show’s Emcee – opening it
with a raunchy “WIlkommen” with the Kit Kat “Girls” sequing into a version of
“Two Ladies” that defies the censors. …Director James made the most of their
abilities, inserting them into the show whenever possible. But t was George
McGarvey who, after designing the sets, explored is abilities both comedic and
vocal. I recall two years ago in his debut he mentioned that he was not
interested in doing drag. Well! Look at the old girl now! However, by far the
most touching moment for me (and .no. not Bella’s menopause number!) of the
show was when he went into the audience and sang in the dark, which made it
possible to concentrate on his voce, a poignant number from Hedwig, “how many
poor defenseless creatures had to die for us” and then from “Midnight Radio” he
inserted many local queen’s names.
I feel sorry for the ever capable Matt Baney in the control booth who never gets the attention he deserves or the friendly
catcalls that Arthur & Martha get a final curtain! And don’t dare forget
the formidable Hoffa’s who rule the floor!
With almost 30 numbers and almost twenty performers I am sure I
inadvertently left someone/thing out – but what can you do when your
senses are happily overloaded…….
The Music Man – Music Director Buster Freeze
don’t forget the band: the Paul Johnson Jazz Combo
It starts like this
Margo is flirting with me while I take the picture
This is how it’s done
Oy! Another show
I blush to tell you what they are doing off camera
The hotsy totsy RG’s
feel pretty, Oh, so pretty
I have to pierce my ears NOW?
I am so cute
and many others from the show are available from Just Lorraine
Not a RG but also hot
OK there’s no substitute for this
Do you see what I see?
Pay attention – lessons from the pro
This looks confusing – but, no, we’re in the Grove
I think he/she’s got it
Oh Yes! definitely
Now I can hang with the girls!
Now that’s a performance
Don’t believe a word of it!
What’s wrong with this picture?? (Check the shoes)
Better when you don’t see the feet! Wait a minute! Who brought the
The APCG President (who just added title: Miss Fire Island) and the HCQueen
Who wears the pants in this house? Anyone?
THAT’s who wears the
Oh, Bruce Michael! I’d follow you anywhere…….
Yes, we know, men are such cads – we must comfort each other
This gal needs a lot of comforting – good thing Sherri’s
Ooops. BMG spotted
something across that crowded room
If this is love why do they look so serious
Where is that other hand?
Not the Rockettes – look at Jackie
trying to keep up
Hold everything! Its Porsche out of drag and Denise in – this
picture is valuable!
Where are the censors???
What’s goin’ on here? What kind of show
All in together, girls (not quite “Some Like It Hot”)
Yes, Mommy Dearest
What cute little twins
No! They can’t be the same duo!!! Sonny & Cher on steroids
I just love my leather, so macho!
WoW! A guy guy………
But not for long…..
She’s my Daddy!!!
Remember that from La Cage???
It curtains for everyone!
AFTERWARD photos by jeannie
I love my dress and I am not taking it off
Hey, whatchu lookin’
at? You got a problem?
How do I look as a brunette
It’s another look for me –
do you think it’s sexy?
Too bad – she’s got a
girlfriend and she’s a pro athlete!
Can’t stop posing,,,,,
Likewise...amazing what a little black dress will
ON THE WAY
How’s this? Did anyone say “ham”?
They’ll pick up anyone – this one is still wet!
Look at what I found…and he’s straight!
Note from the Director:
I had my Off-Broadway debut as a Producer & Director on April
7, 2008. The show I Produced & Directed was called: "It
Takes The Village" at the The Lucille Lortel Theater.
I'll direct my next Off-Broadway show at The Lucille Lortel on Monday, April 20th, 2009. More details to
come on that shortly. Please be sure to mark your calendar as I'll want
you to be there to see my next show!! -- xoxo James