Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Glorious Ones (The SOB Review)

The Glorious Ones (The SOB Review) - Lincoln Center Theater at the Mitzi E. Newhouse

*** (out of ****)

Who said nice things come in small packages?

Well, that line may need a slight bit of tweaking in the case of The Glorious Ones -- the new 105-minute long musical from Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Naughty things come in small packages would be more like it.

Though it may not exactly rise to the exalted heights of all things glorious, the accomplished tunesmiths' latest work is certainly good -- if not-so-clean -- fun.

With Graciela Daniele's deft touch and Ahrens and Flaherty's comedic and at times compelling score, The Glorious Ones is a debauched little diamond in the rough.

It shines with a devilishly funny cast led by Marc Kudisch as Flaminio Scala. Kudisch portrays the charismatic 16th Century leader of a fledgling band of actors in the commedia dell’arte (comic tradition) that is steeped in vulgarity and slapstick. Yet late in the relatively brief show, Kudisch's velvety bravado lends the production an unexpectly deeper, more richly layered polish that makes the tuner sparkle.

Half the fun is getting there, but only with the appreciation that this is an early night at the improv we're talking about. The Glorious One traces the backstage story of how Scala amasses his improvisational ensemble in bawdy scenario after scenario, reminiscent of the simple outlines the real Flaminio Scala employed to direct his street performances.

Starting with his own sinfully coquettish lover Columbina (a voluptuously saucy Natalie Venetia Belcon in an astonishing departure from the Gary Coleman role she created in Avenue Q) to defining a handsome harlequin (a tender, sweet Jeremy Webb) to bringing on the seemingly nonthreatening ingenue-cum-visionary Isabella Andreini (a radiant Erin Davie), the sketches lead to a surprising showdown between Scala and Andreini over the direction the troupe should take. Will they dare to go where no theatrical company had gone before or wind up doing the same old shtick ad infinitum?

Perhaps because of its depiction of everything from intentionally serious overacting to the performance art's lewd and lascivious nature, I noticed a few audience members walking out -- to my chagrin, the couple sitting next to me kept bantering back and forth over whether they should leave, too. (I was tempted to say, "Please go already.") However, when all was said and done, they appeared pleased they had stayed.

To depart would have missed the point of this superbly acted, if ultimately sentimental gem of a show -- that modern comedy genius adored the world over can trace its humble roots back to the simple yet smart street performers who refined their work into true art.

While this little frippery may not be glorious, it certainly is a delight.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.

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At 14 December, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I decided to search for you when I saw your name on my Christmas Card list.
JJ from WI:


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