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Adrift in Macao at Primary Stages at 59E59 Theaters
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Adrift in Macao at Primary Stages at 59E59 Theaters

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Primary Stages Presents:
Adrift in Macao
Book and Lyrics by Christopher Durang
Music by Peter Melnick
Directed by Sheryl Kaller
At
Primary Stages
www.primarystages.com
at
59E59 Theaters
www.59E59.org
59 East 59th Street
NY, NY

Featuring:
Alan Campbell, Rachel De Benedet, Orville Mendoza
Michelle Ragusa, Jonathan Rayson, Will Swenson, Elisa Van Duyne

Choreography: Christopher Gattelli
Music Direction: Fred Lassen
Lighting: Jeff Croiter
Sets: Thomas Lynch
Costumes: Willa Kim
Sound: Peter Fitzgerald
Orchestrations: Michael Starobin
Music Coordinator: Howard Joines
Casting: Mark Simon
Production Supervision: PRF Productions
Production Stage Manager: Emily N. Wells
Director of Marketing: Louis Bavaro
Director of Development: Erica Raven
Associate Artistic Director: Michelle Bossy
Press: O & M

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 9, 2007


(See 2006-2007 New Year’s Eve Party at 59E59 Theaters)

Primary Stages has a hit on its hands, and, unfortunately, the show has a brief run, so, at the top of this review, I recommend reserving your tickets speedily and then reading on. Playwright, Christopher Durang was approached by composer, Peter Melnick to collaborate on a “film noir musical parody”, and he luckily accepted the proposal. This one-act production, almost two hours long, could be even longer, in a two-act mode. There are thirteen big numbers, five main characters, two minor roles, Thomas Lynch’s colorful, creative sets, Willa Kim’s even more colorful and creative costumes and wigs, and enough fun to distract the diehard cynic on a cold winter’s night.

Set in Macao, China, in 1952, at a nightclub owned by “Rick Shaw” (Will Swenson), the svelte Lureena (Rachel De Benedet) arrives, looking for a vocal gig and perhaps a man to “show her around”. But, the show has begun with a campy gunshot scene, replete with brimmed hats, trenchcoats, smoke, and smiles. So, we know Lureena will be safe. Rick looks anything but safe, but Lureena is tough as nails with windy wit and legs that draw the eye. In a slinky, purple satin dress, her décolletage draws Rick’s eye as well.

Lureena is set up to compete with the hilarious, Lucy-look-alike, the curvy redhead, Corinna, with bubbly red curls peeking from a green ribbon, as ornament to a tropically flowered dress, even more revealing than Lureena’s purple one. Corinna mugs and pouts and instantaneously captivates the audience. The theatre is charged with charisma. In fact, the most mesmerizing (literally, as he self-hypnotizes) character is the “battered by life” Tempura, sensationally played by Orville Mendoza. All the Asian taboos are prevalent, funny walk, talk, mannerisms, clever tricks, devious delight, but here they are celebrated, and Tempura steals the show.

The “straight guy”, Mitch (Alan Campbell), arrives in Macao with a mission, to find McGuffin, to clear his name in America, so he can return freely and avoid jail. (Remember the gunshot?) Beyond the acting, the singing is sensational; these actors have real vocal talent, and, thanks to Peter Fitzgerald’s “non-hyping” of the sound system and Fred Lassen’s careful music direction, I could actually grasp Christopher Durang’s lyrics, set to Peter Melnick’s music. Lureena’s Pretty Moon over Macao and Corinna’s Mambo Malaysian were adorable and melodic. The title song is sung by Lureena, Corinna, Mitch, and Tempura, and The Chase (with smoke, trenchcoats, brimmed hats, and Jeff Croiter’s dim lighting) brought in the “Trenchcoat Chorus”, with Jonathan Rayson and Elisa Van Duyne, who usually dresses in a stark, black suit, slinky of course, as are they all. But, the ultimate coup de grace comes in the final song, Ticky Ticky Tock, with Tempura in surprise gender genre.

Suffice it to say, I loved this show and would see it again, soon. And, there’s more – the choreography, the stuff of Broadway. These actors can also dance! Christopher Gattelli staged solo, duo, and ensemble dancing with tight timing, humor, elegance, and imagery, all at once. Sheryl Kaller’s direction is worthy of an award for achieving so much in a small theater with a small cast. The actors’ audience asides are charming and disarming, and Rick even announces his belted, song-dance number (not listed in the program) as an extra, a daring device. Fred Lassen’s raised band of five (playing a total of nine instruments) sounds like a small orchestra, but never overwhelming. Kudos to Christopher Durang, kudos to Peter Melnick, and kudos to the cast and crew for a most delightful evening at the theater.


On your way to or from Primary Stages at 59E59 Theaters, you can dine and/or wine at Tony May’s San Domenico NY, at 240 Central Park South, just a couple of blocks west on 59th Street. Tonight, my theatre guest and I enjoyed eggplant and mussels appetizers, a fresh fish dinner, Chianti, homemade sorbets, and espresso. Call 212.265.5959 to reserve a table at Tony May’s San Domenico NY.



Orville Mendoza as Tempura and Michelle Ragusa in the new madcap musical "Adrift in Macao" with book & lyrics by Christopher Durang and music by Peter Melnick presented by Primary Stages. Directed by Sheryl Kaller with choreography by Christopher Gattelli and music direction by Fred Lassen, the cast features Alan Campbell, Rachel de Benedet, Jonathan Rayson, Will Swenson and Elise Van Duyne. Now in performance at 59E59 Theaters through March 4, 2007.
Photo courtesy of James Leynse



(L to R) Rachel de Benedet, Michelle Ragusa, Alan Campbell and Orville Mendoza in the new madcap musical "Adrift in Macao" with book & lyrics by Christopher Durang and music by Peter Melnick presented by Primary Stages. Directed by Sheryl Kaller with choreography by Christopher Gattelli and music direction by Fred Lassen, the cast features Jonathan Rayson, Will Swenson and Elise Van Duyne. Now in performance at 59E59 Theaters through March 4, 2007.
Photo courtesy of James Leynse



Rachel de Benedet as Lureena in the new madcap musical "Adrift in Macao" with book & lyrics by Christopher Durang and music by Peter Melnick presented by Primary Stages. Directed by Sheryl Kaller with choreography by Christopher Gattelli and music direction by Fred Lassen, the cast features Alan Campbell, Orville Mendoza, Michelle Ragusa, Jonathan Rayson, Will Swenson and Elise Van Duyne. Now in performance at 59E59 Theaters through March 4, 2007.
Photo courtesy of James Leynse



Orville Mendoza as Tempura in the new madcap musical "Adrift in Macao" with book & lyrics by Christopher Durang and music by Peter Melnick presented by Primary Stages. Directed by Sheryl Kaller with choreography by Christopher Gattelli and music direction by Fred Lassen, the cast features Alan Campbell, Rachel de Benedet, Michelle Ragusa, Jonathan Rayson, Will Swenson and Elise Van Duyne. Now in performance at 59E59 Theaters through March 4, 2007.
Photo courtesy of James Leynse



(L to R) Rachel de Benedet, Alan Campbell and Michelle Ragusa in the new madcap musical "Adrift in Macao" with book & lyrics by Christopher Durang and music by Peter Melnick presented by Primary Stages. Directed by Sheryl Kaller with choreography by Christopher Gattelli and music direction by Fred Lassen, the cast features Orville Mendoza, Jonathan Rayson, Will Swenson and Elise Van Duyne. Now in performance at 59E59 Theaters through March 4, 2007.
Photo courtesy of James Leynse




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