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This Broadway review by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the May

23, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Simon Saltzman: A Class Act

Chorus Line’ lyricist Edward Kleban, who died at the

age of 48 from cancer (a chain smoker), lived long enough to see his

name in lights — just once. Now the backstage story of Kleban’s

life, mostly his failed attempts to be recognized for both his words

and music, has been turned into an intimate, lovingly presented, and

beautifully performed musical. Moved to Broadway following its

successful

run at the Manhattan Theater Club, "A Class Act" is indeed

that. Lonny Price not only stars as Kleban, but also has directed

the show. He also gets credit (with Linda Kline) as the show’s

co-writer.

"A Class Act" is small-scaled, but its heart and entertainment

quotient is big. It takes on a serious subject — its protagonist’s

neurotic and difficult to warm-up-to personality — but does so

with a brightness and clarity that makes us feel his many inner demons

and frustrations as well as his passion for composing. Much of the

show revolves around a lot of inside show biz stuff — rehearsals,

jealousies, and competitive personalities. But as book-ended by a

memorial service during which former girl friends (he surprised

everyone

by being straight), male friends, colleagues and collaborators

commemorate

him, the show spins melodically and lyrically from anxiety to

frustration.

What fun!

Both devilishly intriguing and assertively abrasive, Price is

priceless

as this creative dynamo who couldn’t get a break after "A Chorus

Line." But to "A Class Act’s" credit are the previously

unheralded and surprisingly terrific Kleban songs that propel the

show. Spirited, witty, and warm, in turn, they deserve the attention

they are now being given by Price, who winningly dominates the

biography.

Also featured are Randy Graff, as Sophie, Kleban’s on-again-off-again

girl friend; Sara Ramirez, as his sexy, overbearing friend and

intimidating

boss at Columbia Records; and Donna Bullock and Nancy Anderson, as

Kleban’s half-devoted, half-estranged friends.

But it’s not all about Kleban, his struggles with his work, and his

women. Patrick Quinn makes a hilarious impression as an effected

Lehman

Engel. Also excellent are David Hibbard and Jeff Blumenthal, as

various

others. Although the show has been simply designed by James Noone,

and costumer Carrie Robbin, its effectiveness comes with the smart

and sassy telling of the story, the superb singing of the songs, and

the echoing resonance of a creative artist who is finally getting

his due. Three stars: You won’t feel cheated.

A Class Act, Ambassador Theater, 219 West 49 Street, New

York, 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. $25 to $75.

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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.


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