Sunday, March 05, 2017

Dear World

By the time you read this, the York Theatre Company production of Dear World will be over. Part of the York's Musicals in Mufti series (their version--in many ways better--of Encores!), this production was a total delight. Tyne Daly took the lead role of Countess Aurelia, and she was nothing short of magical. I've read complaints here and there about the limitations of her singing, but superb, funny, subtle, heart-breaking acting transcends perfectly hit notes. (Isn't this why people are paying $299 to see Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard?) And, yes, Daly was superb, funny, subtle, and heart-breaking.

Tyne Daly
Photo: Ben Strothmann

The show itself was much better than I expected. It has a mediocre reputation, but as a mood piece, it's quite good. And the plot is depressingly timely--a bunch of rapacious businessmen want to blow up Paris to get to the oil underneath. They have more money than they could ever spend; their actions would kill hundreds of people and destroy the lives of thousands more; they don't care. They just want more money and more money and more money. In the terms of Dear World, greed is a disease. In the terms of our present, as corporations blithely destroy the wilderness and people's water to squeeze out every penny of profit they can, yes, greed is a disease.

But this is not to say that Dear World is dreary. Far from it. It is full of romance and humor and some excellent songs from Jerry Herman. The trio sung by the three madwomen is as much fun as anything you'll see on a stage, and Daly, Alison Fraser, and Ann Harada nailed it. The rest of the cast was also excellent, with some gorgeous, gorgeous voices. They were Dewey Cadell, J. Bernard Calloway, Ben Cherry, Stephen Mo Hanan, Erika Henningsen, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka (charming as the romantic lead), Peter Land, Gordon Stanley, Kristopher Thompson-Bolden, and Lenny Wolpe (truly wonderful as "the sewerman").

The Muftis are very barebones, but I have to tip my hat to lighting designer Brian Nason, for his atmospheric, frequently beautiful lighting.

So, how are the Muftis better than Encores!? The actors are not miked! Live voices are such a treat. And it's way cheaper. And it's in a cozy little theatre. And it has the energy of staged readings--with their spontaneity and funny mishaps--that Encores! lost years ago. I would imagine that an entire Mufti run of a show seats fewer people than one night of an Encores! show, and what a lucky bunch of people it is.

I can't imagine that Dear World will have no future. It certainly deserves one. If it comes back, grab your opportunity to see it!

Wendy Caster
(second row; subscription seat)

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