‘The Last Ship’, Holiday Gifts and More

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Inside notes and comments about Connecticut and New York Professional Theater

By Karen Isaacs

 Can The Last Ship Be Saved?  The Last Ship– the vaguely autobiographical musical with music and lyrics by Sting — received good but not great reviews and has been languishing at the box office.  I liked the show but wished I had liked it more. (To check out my review and to see photos from the show, visit 2ontheaisle.wordpress.com) I enjoyed the music but the book seemed confused with three stories intertwining, and a heavy dose of symbolism. Now, in an effort to boost the box office during a big tourist period in NYC, Sting will take the role of the foreman, played very well by Jimmy Nail. He will be in the cast for four weeks beginning Dec. 9.  Sting did perform a benefit concert version of the show last year.

Raising BIG Money for a Good Cause: At this time of year, all the Broadway theaters take a few minutes to solicit funds after the final curtain calls for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids which supports not just AIDS programs but a variety of health programs for theater professionals.  There is a good natured competition among the shows about which can raise the most funds. But whenever Hugh Jackman is on Broadway — he can win it hands down.  Jackman, who is very personable and attractive, always auctions off a shirt that he has worn in the show with the opportunity to come back stage, meet him and have photos taken.  The night I saw The River,  the new play he is doing on Broadway, it was the same.  BUT he got just ONE bid!  Why?  Because the opening — and the winning bid — was for $10,000 dollars!  The night I saw his one man show a number of years ago, he sold two shirts — for $5,000 each.

Gift Giving: ‘Tis the season for gift-giving.  For the theater fan in your life, you can check out the  playbill.com store.  Or, even better check out the Broadway Cares site: http://www.broadwaycares.org.  You’ll find the annual “Carols for a Cure” CDs; each year Broadway casts record old and new holiday music.  You’ll also find signed CDs from Broadway stars, books, mugs, and all sorts of other things.  Plus you help a great cause.

Music Gifts:  The 2013-14 season was not a great one for musicals BUT there are some original cast CDs that you can give as gifts — or give the downloads.  First of all, you can get Audra MacDonald’s entire performance as Billie Holiday, but that is only partly a musical — there is lots of dialogue.  For musicals — I would recommend three: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder which won the Tony for best musical;  The Bridges of Madison County which won the Tony for best score; and the about-to-be released original cast of Sting’s The Last Ship.  For true Broadway aficionados, I would add the CD for Violet with Sutton Foster.

Performances: Another great gift suggestion is tickets to one of our terrific local theaters.  All of them offer a variety of packages that allow your lucky recipient to select the show and the dates.  Check out the web sites for Hartford Stage, Long Wharf, Westport Country Playhouse, Goodspeed Musicals, Ivoryton Playhouse, TheaterWorks, Playhouse on Park and the Connecticut Rep.

Side Show: Side Show, the musical about conjoined twins who became stars in vaudeville — it is based on actual twins — is back on Broadway in a revised version that is touching and disturbing. Erin Davie and Emily Padgett play Violet and Daisy Hilton — Violet is shyer and wants a quiet life while Daisy wants fame and fortune. Both are excellent.  Also outstanding is David St. Louis who watches over the girls and protects them from their early days in a side show (or “freak show” as it was called) to their days in vaudeville.  Hollywood director Bill Condon has done a terrific job creating the right contrast between the disturbing images of the side show and the false happiness of the vaudeville numbers. This is a show worth seeing.  Tickets are available through Telecharge.  It’s at the St. James Theater on West 44th.

For More NYC and Connecticut Reviews: To see how other Connecticut critics feel about various productions, visit www.ctcritics.org.

This content is courtesy of Shore Publications and zip06.com

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