Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Broadway Postcard No. 3: Three Boca producers, and struggling with Stoppard

Tom Riley and Bel Powley in Arcadia.‭
(‬Photo by Carol Rosegg‭)

By Hap Erstein

Tuesday was an even better weather day in New York,‭ ‬with the temperature climbing into the‭ ‬80s,‭ ‬and locals shedding their clothes like it was the second coming of summer.‭

My dance card was busy with interviews and,‭ ‬in the evening,‭ ‬a much-anticipated viewing of Tom Stoppard’s‭ ‬Arcadia.
But first,‭ ‬always in search of a Florida angle on the Broadway season,‭ ‬I met and spoke with three former Boca Raton residents‭ ‬--‭ ‬Philip Morgaman‭ (‬27‭ ‬years old‭)‬,‭ ‬Frankie J.‭ ‬Grande‭ (‬28‭) ‬and Brian Kapetanis‭ (‬28‭) ‬--‭ ‬high school pals who are the lead producers on the acclaimed new revival of‭ ‬Born Yesterday.‭

How they wore down playwright Garson Kanin’s estate to get the performance rights to the play when others had previously been turned down,‭ ‬how they raised the‭ ‬$3‭ ‬million budget and shepherded it from pre-production to rehearsals to a star-studded opening night‭ (‬yes,‭ ‬even Liza Minnelli attended and endorsed the show‭) ‬is a great,‭ ‬upbeat story.‭ ‬Stay tuned.

I also stopped by the new‭ ‬42nd Street Studios to talk with Diane Paulus,‭ ‬director of the Tony-winning revival of‭ ‬Hair,‭ ‬currently on tour,‭ ‬headed back to Broadway this summer and on to the Kravis Center next season.‭ ‬Over her lunch half-hour,‭ ‬she talked about mounting the show,‭ ‬a passion project‭ ‬that has turned into a cash cow.

Somewhere around‭ ‬1‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬I noticed that my cellphone had lapsed into a coma,‭ ‬refused to make or receive calls.‭ ‬But this is New York,‭ ‬so I popped into one of the many AT&T stores,‭ ‬where a friendly,‭ ‬efficient sales/technician staffer performed emergency surgery on the phone and send me on my way with it in working condition in a matter of minutes.

If I could have used it inside the Barrymore Theatre,‭ ‬I could have called for assistance trying to understand‭ ‬Arcadia.‭ ‬Stoppard is my single favorite playwright,‭ ‬but sometimes he packs his scripts so densely with ideas that you feel your head will explode trying to take in all the information and processing it.‭ ‬I’m afraid that is the way I felt about‭ ‬Arcadia,‭ ‬and I had already seen the play,‭ ‬back in‭ ‬1985‭ ‬when it had its American premiere at Lincoln Center.

Operating on parallel tracks with characters existing in‭ ‬1809‭ ‬England and today,‭ ‬dealing with the laws of thermodynamics and British landscape gardening techniques,‭ ‬there is plenty of Stoppardian wordplay along the way,‭ ‬but also a lot of cerebral thought that eluded me.‭ ‬Worse,‭ ‬I had always heard that the original London production had been an overwhelming emotional experience,‭ ‬but I found both American versions to be dry-eyed head trips.

There was some nice work from the cast‭ ‬--‭ ‬notably Tom Riley,‭ ‬Lia Willams and Miami’s Raul Esparza‭ ‬--‭ ‬but I’m still waiting for a truly satisfying production of what many call Stoppard’s masterwork.‭

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