URBANITE – New Shows on Broadway
New Shows On and Off – Broadway: Paramour, Cagney, Turn Me Loose, Confusions and Hero’s Welcome
By: Barry Bassis
Paramour (at the Lyric Theatre) is probably not the best name for the new show by Cirque du Soleil. The title wrongly suggests that the production is somewhat risqué. Actually, kids and their parents will probably love the spectacle and some of the musical numbers but be equally bored by the script. Paramour is an homage to the Busby Berkeley musicals of the 1930’s. The plot involves movie director A.J. Golden (Jeremy Kushnier) finding a new female star named Indigo (Ruby Lewis) singing in a nightclub. He hires her as his new female lead and her pianist Joey (Ryan Vona) to write songs for their movies. The director has designs on Indigo, but she falls for the young guy. Lewis is appealing and has a powerful singing voice, while Kushnier is rather flat in the type of role that John Barrymore made hilarious in Twentieth Century and Anton Walbrook intense in The Red Shoes.
Where Paramour excels is in its dance numbers as well as its astonishing aerialists, acrobats, jugglers, and tumblers. Cirque du Soleil should stick to what it does best. In other words, be a circus. If you want to see a truly entertaining musical, albeit on a smaller scale, see Cagney at the Westside Theater. This is a biography of James Cagney, the movie star who grew up in Hell’s Kitchen. Starting as a song and dance man, he became famous playing a gangster in Public Enemy. As the show points out, the star himself came up with the idea of sticking a grapefruit in Mae Clarke’s face, just as he later thought of having the gangster in White Heat suffer from epileptic fits. The Oscar he won, though, was for Yankee Doodle Dandy in which he played the patriotic singer-songwriter dancer George M. Cohan. Trying to portray a screen legend, especially one as versatile as Cagney, is a daunting task and Robert Creighton is terrific in the part. While the original songs are sometimes witty and tuneful, the most memorable numbers are still the ones by Cohan. The talented Creighton also co-wrote the original music and lyrics with Christopher McGovern; the book is by Peter Colley. Much credit should also go to director Bill Castellino and choreographer Joshua Bergasse.
Downstairs at the Westside Theater is another worthy bio, Turn Me Loose by Gretchen Law in which Joe Morton is splendid as comic Dick Gregory. The only other actor is John Carlin, ably playing a number of roles. John Legend is one of the producers and there is a recording of him singing a song at the end. Gregory always mixed comedy with social observation and the title comes from the last words spoken by Medgar Evers as he was dying from a racist’s bullets. The Brits Off-Broadway Festival at 59E59 Theaters brought two productions of Alan Ayckbourn plays directed by the author: Confusions from 1974 and his new Hero’s Welcome. Ayckbourn views life as a comedy, but a rather dark one where almost everyone harbors secrets. What is reassuring is that his latest play, about a war hero who returns to his native town where he experiences a mixed reception, suggests that true love may be possible. The actors–Charlotte Harwood, Evelyn Hoskins, Elizabeth Boag, Stephen Billington, Richard Stacey, Russell Dixon–are perfectly attuned to the playwright’s nuances and quirks.