Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Is He Dead?

Photo/Joan Marcus

No, he's thankfully alive and kicking in drag! Not Mark Twain, silly -- his recently rediscovered play is but inspiration -- Norbert Leo Butz, who plays the role with such self-awareness (his bray of a laugh never gets old) that the show stays spry and full of "con"plications. The text is filled with puns (a chimney sweep leaves behind a "sootprint"; he's a real "impressionist") and a bright and likable cast. Aside from the bread and butzer of the show, Jean-Francois Millet faking his own death as his implausibly eccentric twin sister Daisy Tolou (that's "to you" to you), there's also his friends: "Chicago" (Michael McGrath, channeling Nathan Lane), "Dutchy" (Tom Alan Roberts, fittingly playing the Pumbaa of the bunch), and Phelim O'Shaughnessy (Jeremy Bobb); his adorers, the Leroux family (John McMartin, Jenn Gambatese, and Bridget Regan); and David Pittu, who fills in everything else. The weak link is the evil yet frequently lovestruck usurist, Bastien Andrew (Byron Jennings), who simply isn't inflated enough. The highlight is adapter David Ives -- having flipped through the original script during intermission, it's clear that Ives understands it's all in the timing (to be fair, so does Blakemore, a veteran of that venerable Noises Off), and he's compressed most of the jokes down so that they have a faster rhythm and a less confusing pace; without him, we'd be asleep long before all the doors start opening and closing in act two.

[Also blogged by: Patrick | David]

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