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"Happiness" at Lincoln Center Theater at the Mitzi E. Newhouse
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"Happiness" at Lincoln Center Theater at the Mitzi E. Newhouse

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Lincoln Center Theater
At the Mitzi E. Newhouse
(Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater Website)
Under the Direction of Andre Bishop and Bernard Gersten
Presents:

Happiness
A New Musical

212.239.6200

Book by John Weidman
Music by Scot Frankel
Lyrics by Michael Korie

With:
Ana Maria Andricain, Fred Applegate, Sebastian Arcelus,
Holly Ann Butler, Miguel Cervantes, Patrick Cummings,
Janet Dickinson, Hunter Foster, Joanna Gleason,
Alan H. Green, Samantha Maza, James Moye, Alessa Neeck,
Ken Page, Robert Petkoff, Jenny Powers, Eric Santagata,
Robb Sapp, Alexander Scheitinger, Lina Silver,
Phyllis Somerville, Pearl Sun, Idara Victor, Matt Wall

Directed and Choreographed by Susan Stroman

Sets: Thomas Lynch
Costumes: William Ivey Long
Lighting: Donald Holder
Sound: Scott Lehrer
Orchestrations: Bruce Coughlin
Music Direction and Conductor: Eric Stern
Projection Designer: Joshua Frankel
Assoc. Director/Choreographer: Joanne Manning
Stage Manager: Rolt Smith
Casting: Tara Rubin Casting
Director of Development: Hattie K. Jutagir
Director of Marketing: Linda Mason Ross
Musical Theater Assoc. Producer: Ira Weitzman
General Press Agent: Philip Rinaldi
General Manager: Adam Siegel
Production Manager: Jeff Hamlin


Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 1, 2009


In the midst of a deep recession, a “feel-good” musical, even one without memorable tunes or a refreshingly new concept, brings smiles to the audience, and, as I looked around me tonight, toward the beginning of this new production, I did see dozens of smiles. After all, this is a Manhattan – based musical, performed in Manhattan, for a New York crowd, downstairs at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theatre. And, in anticipation, we know Susan Stroman, Director and Choreographer, from The Producers, Young Frankenstein, and Contact, plus her superb two-Act ballet, Double Feature. We know John Weidman, who wrote this book, from Pacific Overtures and Anything Goes, and we know Scott Frankel, composer, and Michael Korie, lyricist, from Grey Gardens. And, we love an onstage midtown street scene, with a dashing lawyer, married hospital interns, and a cute bike delivery guy. So, what could go wrong? Fortunately, not too much.

This almost two-hour, intermission-less play exudes generic music to generic plot-twists with generic results. But, the audience kept smiling, because the actors drove the momentum with adroit humor and occasional pathos. Nine characters, earlier rushing to work and other appointments, all find themselves on a static subway car, swiveling about, with no destination. They are caught in time, having all died presumably at once, in unseen disaster/s, and now the trains’ conductor, Stanley (formerly a greedy banker), requires each passenger to seize one memorable moment for eternal existence. One moment of happiness, and that moment will play out forever in each character’s afterlife. Each of the nine characters (plus their youthful and memory-placed extended counterparts) relive those chosen moments through song, dance, and story line. Some work, some don’t. Weidman uses social motifs, like the banking crisis, failed career dreams, cultural diversity, AIDS, empty relationships, meaningful relationships, and the more clichéd, “boy or girl within everyone”.

Sebastian Arcelus, as Zack, the aggressive lawyer, who doesn’t feel dead, vows to undergo a live re-incarnation toward warmth and honesty, if only he can escape. There are many scenes of Zack trapped in the train, working on his transformation through athletics and song. Hunter Foster, as Stanley, the conductor, who determines each character’s destiny, based on their sincere musical memories, was impassioned in his anti-Wall Street role, as he drove Ms. Stroman’s subway choreography. My favorites were Miguel Cervantes, as the bike delivery guy, whose memory centers on visiting his young daughter as her “tooth fairy”, a comedic-poignant skit, Ken Page as Maurice, the high style decorator, who visits his partner in the hospital and makes a picnic on the bed, and Phyllis Somerville as Helen, who, in her youth, dances in the USO Hall with a doomed soldier, grasping onto the moment with urgent eloquence.

Other “memory skits” were Fred Applegate as Kevin, who, in his youth, had a great day at the ball park with his father, Joanna Gleason as Arlene, a right-wing, radio talk-show host, who used to be a flower child (seen here in a rousing 60’s dance routine), Jenny Powers as Gina, a Bloomingdale’s perfume saleswoman, who had yearned for stardom and luxe, and the duo Pearl Sun and Robert Petkoff, as Cindy and Neil, Chinese and Jewish medical interns, so in love, who re-create exactly the same moment to spend together eternally. An ensemble takes the secondary roles of dancing soldier, Mick Jagger, biker’s daughter, and more. Thomas Lynch’s subway set, plus memory-driven props and stage devices, are creative and eye-catching, sized perfectly for this Off-Broadway venue, and William Ivey Long’s costumes are award-worthy, especially in Joanna Gleason’s 60’s, Mick Jagger dance skit, in Miguel Cervantes’ tooth fairy skit, and in Jenny Powers’ glamour-dreaming, rhythmic dance skit. I looked around the audience again, toward the “Happiness” finale, and many of the smiles remained. The music doesn’t linger, but I overheard comments in the aisle about feeling “inspired”.
























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