Broadway Review: `Summer of 42′

Broadway Review: `The Women’

On Broadway

Off-Broadway

Ticket Numbers

Corrections or additions?

These articles and reviews by Simon Saltzman were prepared for the

January 2, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Belle Mead to Broadway

On September 10, 16-year-old Jason Marcus of Belle

Mead sat in his classroom at Montgomery High School listening to his

history teacher and other students talk about historic events of their

lifetime that were indelibly impressed in their minds. For the

teacher,

it was the sight of the Challenger exploding as it began its ill-fated

voyage to outer space. Whatever historical events Marcus recalled

in class were forever supplanted the next day with the destruction

of New York’s twin towers.

Marcus is not only a high school student. He is also a young actor

who plays the role of Benjie in "Summer of ’42," a new musical

adaptation of the novel and successful 1971 film which opened on

Broadway

in December (see review below). He stopped worrying about

his ability to understand his fictional character — a teenager

growing up during World War II. Now, he says, he has a pretty good

handle on what life and love must have been like back then. And both

he and his character know that "coming of age" isn’t as easy

as it sounds.

At the center of "The Summer of ’42" is Hermie (played by

Ryan Driscoll), a young man who discovers adulthood with Dorothy (Kate

Jennings Grant), a beautiful young war bride. Marcus’s character,

Benjie, is Hermie’s nerdy friend, also in hot pursuit of experience.

Oscy is third member of the trio of teen boys vacationing on a New

England coastal island during the summer of ’42.

Area audiences have already had the pleasure of seeing an 11-year-old

Jason Marcus in "Lost in Yonkers" at the George Street

Playhouse.

Before that, he played the boy Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol"

at McCarter Theater.

Marcus has been part of the "Summer of ’42" company since

its premiere in 2000, in Chester, Connecticut. A two-week run in

October

in Dayton, Ohio, was followed by engagements in Palo Alto, California,

and most recently at Connecticut’s Stamford Center for the Arts. But

as every actor knows, even if you are cast in a new show trying out

in regional theaters, there is no guarantee that the show will ever

get to New York — or that you will still be wanted when it does.

Today Marcus considers himself fortunate.

"It really helps to learn what works for the audience," says

Marcus, in a phone conversation from New York during a rehearsal

break.

He says the show’s director and choreographer, Gabriel Barre, is

"the

best I ever worked with."

"Our emotions are the soul of the show," says Marcus. "I

like playing the small theaters because we don’t have to project our

emotions so far. It’s more down to earth, and the audience can see

our facial expressions." He says he experienced plenty of

emotional

uncertainty wondering, during the out-of-town runs, whether the show

would ever get to New York. And the show has evolved during the

process.

"Except for changing my first scene at least a hundred times,

my role is relatively the same," he says. Relieved that the show

is finally set, he says he still has the fear that he might forget

which change the cast is supposed to perform. He remembers with horror

the night when a changed cue sent every actor off on a different

version.

Benjie is considered a supporting role, except, of course, to his

parents. And Marcus goes by the adage: "There are no small parts,

only small actors."

I ask Marcus how closely he could relate to the role of Benjie. Is

it so removed in time and spirit from what teenagers feel today?

"Although I think we all learn things younger these days, the

feelings of the teenagers in the show are almost identical and

parallel

to what teenagers feel today," he says. "It’s astonishing

that the events that are taking place in the show are like the events

taking place now."

As a young man who is planning on staying with theater as a career,

Marcus learned to keep reins on his hopes during the long waits

between

each production of "Summer of ’42."

"We were lucky that so many of the original cast was able to stay

with the show," he says. "We developed a strong sense of

family."

His situation has been helped by the fact that he is to be able to

live with his aunt in her Manhattan apartment during the show’s New

York run.

Professional training is a must for the budding actor. Marcus praises

his New York acting coaches, Bob Luke and Ann Ratray, as well as his

voice teacher Matt Farnsworth, and vocal coach Michael Roberts.

Remembering

the energy that Marcus brought to the stage in his role in "Lost

in Yonkers," I am not surprised when he mentions Robin Williams

and Billy Crystal as his favorite male stars.

This is just the kind of energy he enjoyed recently as an audience

member at a performance of Michael Frayn’s "Noises Off."

"The

physical comedy in that play is so incredible. I was amazed that these

actors can perform the show eight times a week with all of the

running,

falling, hitting, and energy it takes for every show," he says.

Equally important right now is the prescribed

educational

program for Marcus at the Professional Children’s School in Manhattan.

"I haven’t been there yet because of the rehearsals," says

Marcus who is currently doing what is called "guided study"

with a tutor. He will attend school every day now that the show is

on a regular schedule.

He also hopes to get back to playing tennis, his favorite sport.

Knowing

how much discipline it takes to be an excellent tennis player, he

says, "It takes just as much discipline to remember the exact

spot on the stage where you have to be. We don’t have follow spots

and the lighting is all computer programmed."

Evidently Marcus did not need any guidance to discover his love of

acting and the theater. "I think I was born with it," he says,

even though his father is an optometrist and his mother works as an

administrative assistant.

"You can see, I don’t have a show-business family," he says.

"But I was always performing for my family and relatives at

holidays,

as well as taking part in plays in elementary and high school."

Since romance is at the heart of the story of "Summer of ’42,"

I ask Marcus if had started dating yet.

"Not yet, but I’m on the verge. If I were in `42nd Street’ with

all those chorus girls, I think my chances would be better. Even in

`Summer of ’42,’ the nerdy Benjie doesn’t get much, while the others

do." I suggest that once the show opens and girls start waiting

at the stage door things may begin to change.

While dating is on every teen’s mind, Marcus makes it clear that he

is also passionate about helping to effect a change and a cure for

children who suffer from muscular dystrophy. He is one of a committed

group of young people in show business who travel to schools,

organizations,

and even cabarets with "Kid for Kids," a program designed

to entertain, educate, and raise funds and awareness for the disease.

Their performance in Washington, D.C., at a recent congressional

reception

was responsible for getting a bill passed. All the proceeds from their

album "Generation for Change" go to help the project.

www.thekidsforkidsproject.org.

Is Marcus missing out on some fun during his teen years?

"I don’t want to think about stuff that I may have missed. What

I think about now is what is happening now and what will happen next

and it makes me a little tense," he says. "There was a point

soon after September 11 when the producers briefly considered

postponing

the production. However a decision to move ahead was spurred by

co-producer

Mitchell Maxwell, who notes that, "Our show has extra resonance

because of recent events. We are living in a world on the edge of

war, and our show deals with the fragility of life."

After talking with the refreshingly bright and straightforward Marcus,

I have little doubt that while he thinks about the uncertainty and

fragility of life, as well as his own future as a young man just

beginning

to experience life, he mostly thinks about ways to help.

— Simon Saltzman

Top Of Page
Broadway Review: `Summer of 42′

World War II is just six months old when three

16-year-old

boys discover the pleasures of the opposite sex during a summer

holiday

on a New England coastal island. As recalled in narrative fashion

years later by a grown-up Hermie, whose return to the island brings

back memories of his sexual initiation, the new musical adaptation

of the 1971 novel and successful film is a blatantly sentimental and

purposefully bittersweet valentine to first love. Poignancy receives

equal time with playful comedy and some flavorsome musical numbers

in this unpretentious new musical.

A very likeable melodic score by David Kirshenbaum and a better than

serviceable book by Hunter Foster propel the show. Although some may

find the songs, as well as the dialogue, a trifle on the quaint side,

they reflect their time as well as the temperament of the characters.

Led by their raging hormones around set designer James Youmans’ artful

sand and sky turf, the genially enthusiastic Hermie (Ryan Driscoll),

his bolder buddy Oscy (Brett Tabisel,) and the nerdy bird-watching

Benjie (Jason Marcus) are in hot pursuit of three teenaged girls.

But things change for Hermie when he becomes infatuated with

20-something

Dorothy (Kate Jennings Grant), a recent bride whose husband, Pete

(Greg Stone), has just left for military service. It is when that

dreaded telegraph arrives in Act II that Hermie’s fantasy becomes

a reality and Dorothy’s grief is briefly assuaged. Credit director

Gabriel Barre for making a tasteful and tender scene of their

intimacy:

one that evolves as they hold each other and dance to a song being

played on a record player. The musical’s strength is that it makes

a point of stressing Dorothy’s emotional needs as well as it does

Hermie’s insecure but strong feelings.

While the three teen girls — Aggie (Celia Keenan-Bolger), Miriam

(Megan Valerie Walker) and Gloria (Erin Webley) — are amusingly

cast to complement the personalities of the boys, it is as a trio

of Andrew Sisters-styled singers that they make the biggest impact.

This, as they periodically pop in and out of the action in costumer

Pamela Schofield’s colorful and cute period frocks, with their bouncy

pastiches of ’40s pop music.

At "The Movies," in which Hermie and Oscy attempt to make

out with their dates is one of many funnily addressed episodes. A

particularly winning scene is Hermie’s awkward attempt to buy a condom

at the local drugstore, trying the patience of the proprietor (given

a nice New England resonance by Bill Kux) in the process. Barre’s

wonderfully executed and antic jitterbug on the beach is the show’s

principal dance number.

A very appealing Grant, who has the look of the ’40s young war bride,

could bring a tear to your eye with her lovely plaintive solo

"Promise

of the Morning." The retro romantic songs may strike some as being

quaint. But Grant and Driscoll’s duet "Someone to Dance with

Me"

is easy to swoon and sway to. And Grant and Stone’s only song,

"Little

Did I Dream," is given a nostalgic fox-trot tempo. The youth are

just about perfect in appearance and performance.

With his immature good looks and invigorating presence, Driscoll

dominates

the action and never ceases to be either endearing or convincing.

Tabisel, a somewhat portly bundle of teenage lust, steals as many

scenes as he is in. That doesn’t mean that Marcus, as the least

aggressive

and the boy most intimidated by sex of the trio, doesn’t win our

affection.

But what makes "Summer of 42" most appealing is the way Barre

has, with great delicacy and finesse, created a dream-like vision

of youth and a portrait of the time when America had just gone to

war. It is rather refreshing to see a coming-of-age story that takes

such pure unadulterated delight in its sentiments. ***

— Simon Saltzman

Summer of 42, *** Variety Arts Theater, 110 Third Avenue

at 14th Street, New York. For tickets call Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250

or 212-239-6200.

Top Of Page
Broadway Review: `The Women’

Clare Boothe Luce’s bitchy, biting, and back-stabber

of a play "The Women" may have had a topical target in its

sights in 1936. In 2001, in the Roundabout Theater production and

as directed by Scott Elliott, the play’s aim appears unfocused and

its purpose meretricious. A visually impressive opening tableau vivant

has the all-female cast appearing as mannequins within set designer

Derek McLane’s modernist New York skyline. That they are sporting

the first collection of costume designer Isaac Mizrahi’s creations

might lead you to think that a stylish show was in the works.

Unfortunately, "The Women," doesn’t unfold as a stylishly

witty send-up of wealthy Park Avenue matrons but rather as an

irritatingly

campy valentine to the art of female impersonating. Just as Mizrahi’s

costumes tend to deteriorate with more desperation than design, the

play also deteriorates into a cheap and tacky parody of a once brittle

and barbed satire. The performances, by some otherwise capable actors,

also tend to be come infected by a concerted disintegration of style.

Only McLane’s mobile pastel hued settings attempted anything close

to panache.

Why Elliott, who did such good work staging "Present Laughter"

and "The Three Sisters" (both for Roundabout), has pressed

to actors to perform as if they were female impersonators, is

unfathomable.

But it is unconscionable to treat the play, dated, irrelevant, and

grating, as it is today, as a disingenuous artifact. Everything that

is said and all that happens right down to the curtain call, in which

the company is made to take their bows in undergarments (of the

period),

reveals a taste for tastelessness. One can feel only badly for the

actors being herded through this fiasco.

Some credit for attempting an honest performance must go to Cynthia

Nixon, in the role of initially clueless and gullible Mary, who

discovers

from the big mouth of a manicurist that her husband is having an

affair

with Crystal (Jennifer Tilly) an unscrupulous hard-as-nails

fortune-hunting

shop girl. It is bad enough that the egregiously miscast Tilly hardens

her already abrasive voice so that it sounds like a nail clawing its

way down a chalkboard. But she also made to stand facing the audience

totally nude in a gratuitous shower scene that is notable only for

its embarrassing awkwardness.

You may find some respite from a stage full of fashion grotesqueries

with the less offensive presence of Mary Louise Wilson, as Mary’s

sensible advice-giving mother. When a short scene between an upstairs

and a downstairs maid (excellently played by Heather Matarazzo and

Mary Band Davis), who are discussing the marital breakup of their

employers, becomes the most credible and pertinent in the play, there

is something wrong. The only thing they failed to discuss was why

anybody would want to spend time with "The Women."

H

— Simon Saltzman

The Women * Roundabout at American Airlines Theater, 227

West 42. Extended to January 13. For tickets call Tele-Charge at

800-432-7250

or 212-239-6200.

Top Of Page
On Broadway

The key: Four stars, Don’t miss; Three stars, You won’t feel

cheated; Two stars, Maybe you should have stayed home; One star,

Don’t blame us.

Aida * Palace, Broadway & 47. Ticketmaster. Elton

John and Tim Rice.

Beauty and the Beast Lunt-Fontanne, Broadway & 46.

Ticketmaster.

Cabaret ***, Studio 54, 254 West 54.

Chicago ****, Shubert, 225 West 44.

Contact ****, Vivian Beaumont, Lincoln Center, 150

West 65.

Dance of Death **, Broadhurst, 235 West 44. Ian McKellen

and Helen Mirren. To January 13.

45 Seconds from Broadway ** Richard Rodgers, 226

West 46. Neil Simon comedy. Ticketmaster.

42nd Street ****, Ford Center, 213 West 42. Tony

2001 winner for best revival.

Hedda Gabler ***, Ambassador, 219 West 49. Kate

Burton in Ibsen. To January 13.

Les Miserables ***, Imperial, 249 West 45.

Mama Mia! ***, Winter Garden, 1634 Broadway. The

ABBA hit musical.

Noises Off **, Brooks Atkinson, 256 West 47.

Ticketmaster.

Proof ****, Walter Kerr, 219 West 48. Three Tonys,

Best Play. With Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Rent ****, Nederlander, 208 West 41. Ticketmaster.

Sexaholix Royale, 242 West 45. John Leguizamo. To February

10.

The Full Monty ***, Eugene O’Neill, 230 West 49.

10 Tony nominations.

The Lion King ****, New Amsterdam, Broadway &

42, 212-307-4747.

The Phantom of the Opera ***, Majestic, 247 West

44.

The Producers **** St. James, 246 West 44. Record-breaking

12 Tonys.

The Rocky Horror Show Circle in the Square, 50th and

Broadway. To January 6.

The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife ** Barrymore,

243 West 47. With Valerie Harper.

The Women * Roundabout at American Airlines Theater,

227 West 42. To January 13.

Thou Shalt Not ** Plymouth, 236 West 45. Susan Stroman

musical. To January 6.

Urinetown *** Henry Miller’s Theater, 124 West 43.

Top Of Page
Off-Broadway

And God Created Great Whales, Foundry at Bleecker Theater,

45 Bleecker. Ticketmaster. Rinde Eckert. To January 13.

Are You Dave Gorman?, Westbeth Center, 151 Bank.

Blue Man Group **** Astor Place, 434 Lafayette,

212-254-4370.

De La Guarda * Daryl Roth, 20 Union Square East.

Elaine Stritch at Liberty *** Public, 425 Lafayette.

Everett Beekin ** Mitzi Newhouse, Lincoln Center.

New from Richard Greenberg.

Forbidden Broadway 2001, Stardust, Broadway & 51. "A

Spoof Odyssey."

Homebody/Kabul, New York Theater Workshop, 79 East 4.

New from Tony Kushner.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change ** Westside,

407 West 43.

Love, Janis, Village, 158 Bleecker. The Janis Joplin

musical.

Ticketmaster.

Naked Boys Singing, Actors’ Playhouse, 100 Seventh Avenue.

Neil’s Garden, Rattlestick, 224 Waverly Place.

Othello *** Public, 425 Lafayette. Doug Hughes directs

Shakespeare.

Our Sinatra *** Reprise Room, 245 West 54.

Roadside, St. Peter’s, Lexington at 54. New musical by

Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt.

Speaking in Tongues, Roundabout at Gramercy, 127 East

23.

Stomp **** Orpheum, Second Avenue at 8. Ticketmaster.

Summer of ’42 *** Variety Arts, 110 Third Avenue.

The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged), Century

Center, 111 East 15.

The Donkey Show, Club El Flamingo, 547 West 21. Disco.

Ticketmaster.

The Fantasticks, 181 Sullivan Street Playhouse.

Ticketmaster.

Ends January 13.

The Shape of Things *** Promenade, Broadway at 76.

By Neil Labute.

The Streets of New York, Irish Rep, 132 West 22. To

January

20.

The Syringa Tree *** Playhouse 91, 316 East 91.

TicketMaster.

The Vagina Monologues, Westside, 407 West 43.

The Voice of the Turtle, Mint Theater, 311 West 43,

212-315-0231.

Tick, Tick, Boom *** Jane Street Theater, 113 Jane.

By Jonathan Larson.

Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding *** St. Luke’s Church, 308

West 46.

Where’s My Money?, City Center Stage II, 131 West 55,

212-591-1212.

Wonder of the World, City Center Stage I, 131 West 55.

212-591-1212.

— Simon Saltzman

Top Of Page
Ticket Numbers

Unless otherwise noted, all Broadway and Off-Broadway

reservations

can be made through Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200.

Other ticket outlets: Ticket Central, 212-279-4200; Ticketmaster,

800-755-4000 or 212-307-4100.

For current information on Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, music,

and dance call NYC/On Stage at 212-768-1818, a 24-hour performing

arts hotline operated by the Theater Development Fund. The TKTS

same-day,

half-price ticket booth at Times Square (Broadway & 47) is open daily,

3 p.m. to 8 p.m. for evening performances; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for

Wednesday

and Saturday matinees; and 11 a.m. to closing for Sunday matinees.

Cash or Travelers Checks only; no credit cards. Visit TKTS at:

www.tdf.org.


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