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St. George’s Society of New York Presents: Sondheim's "Evening Primrose" at John Jay College
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St. George’s Society of New York Presents: Sondheim's "Evening Primrose" at John Jay College

- Backstage with the Playwrights

St. George’s Society of New York
www.stgeorgessociety.org

Presents:
Evening Primrose

By Stephen Sondheim
(Stephen Sondheim Bio)
and
James Goldman

At
John Jay College
Gerald W. Lynch Theater
(John Jay College Theater Website)

Teleplay by James Goldman
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Based on the short story by John Collier

With:
Bethe Austin, Candice Bergen, John Buxton, John Cunningham,
William Duell, Frederic Franklin, Jessica Grove, Emma Howard,
Carmen de Lavallade, Sondra Lee, Stephen Mazur, Sean Palmer,
Jasper Soffer, Matthew Schatz, Lars Stevens,
John Windsor-Cunningham

Directed and Designed by Tony Walton
Produced for the St. George’s Society by Margot Astrachan
Music Supervision and Orchestrations by Sean Patrick Flahaven

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 25, 2010


Tonight’s one night revival of Evening Primrose was ironically just that, a one-night show of a one-night telecast on ABC in 1966 of a musical teleplay, with songs by Stephen Sondheim, teleplay by James Goldman, all based on a short story by John Collier. This event was a benefit for St. George’s Society, with a gala awards dinner to follow at Hearst Tower, honoring Glenda Bailey of Harper’s Bazaar and Tony Walton, of Broadway scenery and costume design. The Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College is much too expansive for this intimate work, and the incredibly famous cast was almost invisible in the dimness. But a pre-event cocktail reception had warmed up the crowd, and John Windsor-Cunningham, Host and several characters, was engaging and delightful. To see Candice Bergen, Sondra Lee, Frederic Franklin, and Carmen de Lavallade speaking, swirling, and strutting onstage was a pièce de résistance.

The teleplay is about Charles (Sean Palmer), who discovers he’s trapped in a department store all night, and while he’s there he hears then meets an ensemble of characters, who live in the shadows, a life of surreal enclosure. Ella (Jessica Grove) quickly becomes his object of desire, and their songs take center stage for memorable musicality in impassioned waltz-like tempo. In fact, it was during my favorite song (on auto-rewind in my mind), “Take Me To the World”, that none other than Frederic Franklin and Carmen de Lavallade, as minor characters, took to the dance floor in iconic balletic form. The British-born Mr. Franklin, in his 90’s, began dancing with Josephine Baker in Paris in 1931, and Carmen de Lavallade danced in the Lester Horton Dance Theater in 1949. They danced tonight with glowing elegance. Sondra Lee, who danced in “High Button Shoes” in 1947, was also buoyant and jubilant, dancing here onstage. Candice Bergen, a relative youngster in this setting, was seen in the 1966 film, “The Group”, early in her career. Tonight she read dialogue with presence, poignancy, and pizzazz.

As a journalist’s gift, I received a dvd of the original ABC teleplay, with Anthony Perkins, Charmian Carr, Larry Gates, and Dorothy Stickney. This is a great cast, and I’m surprised the show aired only once. I’d love to see Sondheim’s rare production tried on a small stage downtown, and Jessica Grove and Sean Palmer could easily play the leads. Their voices were rapturous, and I look forward to hearing and seeing them again. Kudos to Stephen Sondheim.



Lillian Wolf, William Wolf,
and Jane Klain
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


Jim Dale, William Wolf,
Lillian Wolf
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


St. George's Society of NY
Reception Guests
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


Tommy Tune and William Wolf
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


Alan Cumming and Guests
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


Candice Bergen, Sean Palmer,
Orchestra, and Mannequins
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


The Ballroom Scene
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


The Ballroom Scene
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


The Ballroom Scene
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


The Ballroom Scene
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


The Ballroom Scene
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


The Cast of Evening Primrose
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


The Cast of Evening Primrose
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


The Cast of Evening Primrose
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


Robert R. Blume and Reception Guests
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


Ellis Nassour and Robert R. Blume
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


Candice Bergen and Robert R. Blume
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower


Ellis Nassour and Kevin Alexander,
PlanetPR, Evening Primrose Press
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower






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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net