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‘June, 2015’

In “The Tempest,” Caliban’s 16th-century slave cry for freedom is more powerful than conflicts between ruling nobles

In “The Tempest,” Caliban’s 16th-century slave cry for freedom is more powerful than conflicts between ruling nobles

The opening of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” is powerful and realistic. The thunder shudders, the lightening flickers, water mists up through a ship’s floor boards, passengers and crew list and fall. A couple left the theater with a very young son whose face showed real fear.

The scene depicts the power of natural forces. But in this case, the power is supernatural. Because the storm has been conjured up by Prospero, former Duke of Milan, exiled to a remote island, who with the help of a magic cape is getting back at the king and brother who betrayed him. He has shipwrecked them on his island.

Nathalie Schmidt’s “Forgotten Lovers” are characters in a comic-dramatic cabaret story

Nathalie Schmidt’s “Forgotten Lovers” are characters in a comic-dramatic cabaret story

Nathalie Schmidt is a French cabaret singer – and a playwright and screenwriter, theater and film director, artist and actress in plays by Shakespeare, Racine, Sartre and other European classics. A full creative life.

You see a lot of that talent in her cabaret show, “Forgotten Lovers,” at the Metropolitan Room. Certainly, her acting enriches a partly comic, partly cynical take on life. As a singer, she hits the right high notes, and she often sounds like Piaf. She’s a personality that the New York cabaret scene needs.

“Clinton: The Musical” better than political commentary from the mainstream media

“Clinton: The Musical” better than political commentary from the mainstream media

Political satire is often the best political commentary. Take the superb sketch musical comedy by Paul Hodge and Michael Hodge, which skewers Democrats and Republicans with equally well-aimed barbs.

The clever device is that two actors play Bill Clinton, the older, wiser William (Tom Galantich) and the young roué, Billy (a very good Duke LaFoon) to show us the two sides of his personality. There’s only one Hillary, but Kerry Butler has enough talent for two.

“Gigi” revival airbrushes the dark story of young girls raised to be courtesans

“Gigi” revival airbrushes the dark story of young girls raised to be courtesans

The set is Art Deco inspired by the Grand Palais in Paris. It’s the Belle Époque of the early 1900s. But how belle depends on how you look at it.

The 1944 Colette story on which the play is based is about the demi-monde of Paris, where elegant courtesans with their rich lovers dined out at Maxim’s, drinking Veuve Cliquot and flicking their gowns and feathers.

“Wolf Hall” a riveting drama of tough 16th-century politics

“Wolf Hall” a riveting drama of tough 16th-century politics

This play may be about the 16th century, but the dialogue, the politics, the economics, the power struggles give you a sense of watching the mafia.

Except that rather than focus on money, we are watching the dramatic repercussions of King Henry VIII’s desire to get a wife who will give him a male heir.

“The Visit” is stunning dark musical where Chita Rivera shines

“The Visit” is stunning dark musical where Chita Rivera shines

When the music is by John Kander and the lyrics by Fred Ebb, you think dark. “Chicago,” “Cabaret,” “Kiss of the Spiderwoman.” “The Visit” fits perfectly into that very satisfying canon. This is a stunning production, with director John Doyle using the musical pieces to build the psychological and intellectual tension.

The story is shadowy and shocking, a political fantasy based on the 1956 play by the Swiss Friedrich Dürrenmatt. Writing soon after the end of World War II, he crafted this as a morality tale for our times. Now it’s a chamber opera.

Hare’s “Skylight” a sharp look at young woman-older guy affair and (political) morality

Hare’s “Skylight” a sharp look at young woman-older guy affair and (political) morality

Love, sex, age and class. Key elements in David Hare’s 1995 play about a rich guy who had an affair with an employee a few years before and would like to start it up again.

He runs restaurants. She was a lawyer’s daughter (ie. privileged) who wandered into his eatery on London’s Kings Road and got a job. And a promotion. And a lover. She left six years later when his wife discovered the affair.

“The Two Gentlemen of Verona” is another Fiasco Theater Shakespearean hit

“The Two Gentlemen of Verona” is another Fiasco Theater Shakespearean hit

The Fiasco Theater has become the clever modern interpreter of Shakespeare, and this production is no exception. When two rivals for her hand sing “Who is Sylvia?” – the name of a pop song — it gets a laugh, because the sad-romantic song is perfectly in tune with this contemporary, light-hearted production.

“An American in Paris” and “On the Town” take Fred and Adele Astaire Awards

“An American in Paris” and “On the Town” take Fred and Adele Astaire Awards

Sometimes theater awards shows are a chore to sit through. Lots of “thank you, thank you…..” to boredom. But the Fred and Adele Astaire awards June 1 for best dancers and choreographers was a delight.

The top dancer awards went to Leanne Cope “An American Paris,” and in a tie vote, to Robert Fairchild, “An American in Paris” and to Tony Yazbeck, “On the Town.”

The Awards were established in 1982 by the Douglas Watt Family Fund for the Performing Arts, to recognize outstanding achievement in dance on Broadway and in film.

Charlotte Patton’s “Celebrating Men” impeccable collection of upbeat songs about love

Charlotte Patton’s “Celebrating Men” impeccable collection of upbeat songs about love

My favorite in Charlotte Patton’s show at the Metropolitan Room was “Quality Time,” a satirical piece by Dave Frishberg (1996) that fits today, as she tells us about a guy telling his wife that, “We’re up to our ears in our careers and putting our hearts on hold,” so they need quality time. He says, “I know a small hotel remote and quiet, if they decide to sell my firm could buy it, then we’d develop it and gentrify it.”
That said, the songs in this charming production are of a piece – not mushy or sad, but upbeat and smart.