Produced by: TheatreWorks
Featuring: Euan Morton, Brian Herndon, Hayden Tee, Mindy Lym, Maureen McVerry, Riley Krull, Diana Torres Koss
Directed by: Robert Kelley
When: Previews 8 p.m. April 3-5; opens 8 p.m. April 6; through April 28, 2013
Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View, California
Tickets:$23-$73 (savings available for students, educators, and seniors). Call 650-463-1960 or visit theatreworks.org
Read an interview with Paul Gordon and Jay Gruska.
Read Robert Hurwitt's review at SFGate.com.
Read Karen D'Souza's review at mercurynews.com.
and charming new musical, 'Being Earnest'
Recipe for a delightful two hours in the theater:
Take "The Importance of Being Earnest" by Oscar Wilde, one of the funniest, sharpest comedies ever written;
Add a very clever book, lyrics and music by Paul Gordon, fortified with more music by Jay Gruska;
Mix in an immensely talented cast of actor/singers and a fabulous stage band;
Stir with direction by the most excellent Robert Kelley.
"Being Earnest" at TheatreWorks through April 28, is being enjoyed by audiences at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, including some repeat visitors who saw it once and had the good sense to go see it again.
I missed opening night and the following weekend for personal reasons, but was delighted to finally see it on its third Saturday, when it played to what looked like a fullish house. Only a few empty seats here and there.
If I'd been there on opening night, I would have been able to see Euan Morton in full physicality as Algernon Moncrieff. As it is, I saw him with slight hitch in his git-along, after he badly injured a knee during an off-stage hike.
So instead of seeing some physical stunts he had performed before, I instead saw a very brave -- and brilliant -- performance by this very talented actor in his TheatreWorks debut. Even though the show was slightly reblocked to account for his injury, it was still amazing to see him on stage at all with such an injury. I was told he was on crutches each time he went offstage.
He had me smiling in the Prologue, when Algernon declares, "A man can be happy with any woman, as long as he doesn't love her," and "All your hopes and joys will end as soon as she says 'Yes.'"
That's Wilde, of course, but hat's off to Gordon for the brilliant book and lyrics. Gordon had the challenge of cutting the great comedy to make it fit in two hours, while still adding songs. So, some of the Wilde dialogue went into lyrics, including bits from other Wilde sources, and some material was trimmed.
The story is of Algernon and Jack, who have been enjoying being young and mostly carefee in the swinging London of the 1960s. Both have used trickery and deceit to occasionally break free from the bounds of their upper class backgrounds. But now Jack, who uses the name Earnest in London, is in love, with Gwendolen, and asks her to marry him. But her mother, the imperious Lady Bracknell, is having none of it. Algernon has just learned of Jack's deceit, and that Jack has a ward, Cecily, in the country. He goes to the country and introduces himself as Jack's London brother, Ernest, and quickly falls in love with Cecily. When Gwendolen shows up, we have two women who think they are both engaged to the same man named Ernest.
Gordon and Gruska moved the play from 1895 to the 1965, to London during the time of the British pop music glory. The pop style of that time drives many of the songs for the show, and the interstitial music -- little bits between scenes, for instance -- is often quotes from the Beatles or other pop acts of 1965.
The pit band, led by great TheatreWorks Music Director William Liberatore, is fabulous. I especially admired guitarist John Imholz, perhaps because I am a guitarist myself and could recognize the challenge of what he played and how well he played it. But Liberatore on keyboard, and Michael Touchi on second keyboard, Artie Storch on drums, and David Schoenbrun on electric bass were all also excellent.
The cast is fabulous. Hats off to Kelley and to Casting Director Leslie Martinson, who have assembled a cast that can manage some very challenging melody lines, and perform comedy. Comedy, as everyone from Edmund Kean to Peter O'Toole has noted, is hard.
Morton brings an impish, boyish charm to Algernon. Hayden Tee as Jack manages to be both human and imperious at the same time, which is vital to the delivery of Wilde wit. Mindy Lym, in addition to being a fine actress and singer, absolutely rocks the Carnaby Street clothing designed by Fumiko Bielefeldt. Riley Krull is adorned in sweet country frocks, but is great with the comedy and the singing. Brian Herndon nails down several roles with hilarity. Maureen McVerry is sharp and imperious as the infamous Lady Bracknell. Diana Torres Koss is solid and in great voice as Miss Prism.
Everybody is in the play every moment on stage, which adds to everyone's fun.
There are actual ear-worm songs in this show, which doesn't happen as much in modern musicals as it did during earlier eras. There is a melody form used in three songs -- "No Romance," "Brothers" and "Brothers Reprise" that kept playing in my brain radio for hours after the show, and I loved every moment of it.
Morton's vocal range knocked my socks off in the song "Cecily."
The second act opens with "All in the Gutter," with the entire cast singing out an omnibus of Wilde quotes. I don't trust my memory or my scribbled notes to quote any of them properly, so I urge you to just go see the show. You have till April 28.