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You are here: Home Theatre Reviews & Features 2014-15 Reviews Off-Broadway Off-Broadway Review: SPEAKEASY DOLLHOUSE - ZIEGFELD’S MIDNIGHT FROLIC
Friday, 15 May 2015 15:12


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Delysia La Chatte as Josephine Baker in Ziegfeld's Midnight Frolic Delysia La Chatte as Josephine Baker in Ziegfeld's Midnight Frolic Photo by ROAM Pictures

Cynthia von Buhler's Speakeasy Dollhouse's series continues with its goal for photorealistic immersive social events with Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic. Having enjoyed the Players Club performance of The Brothers Booth, I was excited for another intricate and spontaneous event. Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic took multiple steps forward in ambition from that downtown iteration. However, in this progress of ambition the events guiding framework sadly slips through the cracks.

After being greeted at the door of the Liberty Diner by a lovely hostess, you're ushered into the Ziegfeld Theatre space which features a restaurant, bar, makeshift thrust stage which is surrounded by couches, and a dance floor. White box seats line the sides where certain audience members sit and vignettes are performed. This cavernous space is crowned with a large chandelier from which several acrobats perform far above the audience. There is also another bar and antechamber tucked behind the stage on the balcony that is presented as a 20's bohemian Parisian hang out.

The four act plot shifts between a vaudevillian Follies performance on the makeshift stage and a tabloid derived murder mystery founded on the multiple affairs of Ziegfeld. While the performers in both accounts are joyously game, the interactions had with them are unsettled in a formed theatrical reality. While the "Brothers Booth" iteration left room for free exploration and discovery, "Ziegfeld Midnight Follies"' attention funneling proscenium enforces the focus upon their lilting narrative. Also, unlike The Players Club exquisite time capsule space, this Times Square theatre has the affectation of a Las Vegas facade. This hopelessly anachronistic theatre requires a good degree more construction to succeed in its transformation, cracks in this facade are abundant.

The stage acts vary from the exquisite, such as the soaring voice of Ellie Frances as Marilyn Miller and energetic tap ofBrian Davis to the purposefully desperate comedic antics of Mr. Gallagher (Glen Heroy) and Mister Shean ( Charley Layton.) The music utilizes both contemporary popular music and Follies-era hits. The vibrant Delysia La Chatte, is a certain crowd favorite as Josephine Baker. There are also prohibition era iterations of contemporary songs such as "Chandelier" and "Happy" a la "Post-Modern Jukebox." The host, Eddie Cantor, as performed by Christ Fink, weathers an iphone obsessed crowd with a character that is never offered much identity beyond an imitation of Joel Grey's M.C. The audience's interlude stint in the Parisian loft bar is a confusing side discussion filled with forced momento mori. The work becomes redundant and tiring after four acts. Even the daring stunts of the dancers in the chandelier become underwhelming rather than spectacular. While Von Buhler's set lacked the finesse I'd come to expect from her work, other aspects of the production soared in creation. The choreography by Delysia La Chatte is spirited and wonderful. Costumes by Carmela Lane are both finely crafted and extravagant. The evening's star attraction is the extraordinary band under the direction of Alphonso Horne.

Cynthia von Buhler's eye for talent and spectacle cannot be dismissed. Perhaps my evening was saturated with the wrong audience or a cog was loose in the production's interactivity while I was there. Whatever the reason, I am scrounging to discover the fun that was so clearly supposed to be had.

Additional Info

  • Theatre: Liberty Theatre
  • Theatre Address: 233 West 41st Street New York, NY
  • Show Style: Play
Last modified on Thursday, 09 July 2015 05:20