by Ron Irwin
‘Finding Neverland’ the joys of eternal youth
We all know about Neverland right? It is that happy mystical place where we can all be children forever. Some might call it Congress while others will take a happier road and revel in the pure joy of imagination and the distinct possibility that there is a place where truly anything can happen. So when playwright J. M. Barrie [Billy Harrigan Tighe] gets a severe case of writer’s block he goes off in pursuit of inspiration and happens upon Neverland. His adventure is sparked as he comes upon four children playing in a lovely London park and he sees in them the joy and possibilities of youth.
As this beautiful theatrical onion is peeled a wide range of the human conditions are exposed and not all are happy. Yet in the end the discovery of Neverland does allow for even the deepest wounds to heal. Along this magical path two truly magnificent and powerful visions present themselves to an enthusiastic audience. One comes at the conclusion of Act One when Captain Hook is introduced and the stage as if by pure magic transforms into a pirate ship at sea as the orchestra builds to an unforgettable crescendo. That one scene alone is well worth the price of admission. But then there is one of the most amazing and gifted young performers on stage today, Ben Krieger as Peter. Ben has clearly found Neverland and there is no doubt but that his future will be brilliant.
Without question there will be some who simply snort at the very notion of Neverland pointing the sheer absurdity of it all and that alone argues compellingly for the very pursuit of Neverland. If one merely allows for the possibility of joy and happiness and employees his or her imagination the truth is one can indeed find Neverland.
Along this path to Neverland love emerges between the mother of the four children playing in the park Sylvia Llewelyn Davies [Christine Dwyer] and J. M. Barrie. But then there is scene very similar to one in the 2001 version of “Moulin Rouge” in which the severe illness and impending death of Satine is revealed by her coughing blood into a handkerchief. But unlike that tragedy in Moulin Rouge in Neverland even greater strength and love evolves because, after all, we have found Neverland.
Clearly “Finding Neverland” is one of the very best shows currently on stage and it does bring an abundance of joy to those who engage. It is suitable for children but not recommended for those under the age of seven. You may enjoy this beautiful work of art right now at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90028. Show times are:
Tuesdays through Fridays at 8:00 p.m.
Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Reservations may be made at: www.HollywoodPantages.com or by calling 1-800-982-2787.
‘For Piano and Harpo’ where insanity and genius meet
Before I could get down to the serious business of writing this review of the latest masterpiece playing at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank, California I needed a moment to enjoy my latest acquisition, the DVD of “Moulin Rouge.” Not the 2001 version that won 2 Oscars starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor but rather the 1952 version that also won 2 Oscars but starred Jose Ferrer and Zsa Zsa Gabor. This earlier version focused far more on the life of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec a post-impressionist artist whose work is so highly esteemed that not long ago his La Blanchisseuse sold for over $22 million.
This reminded me of my favorite artist ever, Vincent van Gogh who died in his mid-thirties penniless and who’s painting L’Allee des Alyscamps recently sold for over $66 million. Both great artists and both on the edge if not fully in the realm of insanity much like the central character in “For Piano and Harpo” which focuses on the life of yet another artistic genius, Oscar Levant who was steeped in dark behavior if not because of his obvious genius certainly concurrent with it.
Dan Castellaneta and JD Cullum
Oscar Levant was a pianist, composer, author comedian and actor of high repute. His witticism was both legendary and often biting. He was clearly a man rich in humor but also a man deep in neuroses and hypochondria. Alexander Wolcott once said of Oscar Levant “There isn’t anything the matter with Levant that a few miracles wouldn’t cure.” And so this character Oscar Levant is brought brilliantly to life by Emmy award winning actor Dan Castellaneta who also wrote the play. One happy coincidence I discovered was that Dan Castellaneta also produced a one man show entitled “Where did Vincent van Gogh?” See, I knew there was a connection.
Jonathan Stark, Dan Castellaneta, Phil Proctor and JD Cullum
On stage in “For Piano and Harpo” we see Oscar Levant often cracking wise with sharp humor and also often descending into the darkness of severe mental distress that at some point takes him to a mental institution. We see in this character the brilliance and the glory as well as the pain and the suffering, a combination that often seems common place amongst the most brilliant artists almost as if genius and insanity are inseparable.
It is a non-stop roller coaster ride that reaches out from the stage and firmly grabs hold of the audience never letting go, not even after the final curtain. It is by far one of the most unique and compelling theatrical performances in modern theatre. Kudos to the entire cast and crew and to the Falcon Theatre for once again delivering at the pinnacle of live theatre. Hmm! Does that mean they are all a little insane as well? Maybe! Go see for yourself.
“For Piano and Harpo” in playing now through March 5th 2017 at The Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank, California 91505. For reservations and ticketing you may go online at: www.FalconTheatre.com or call: 818-955-8101.
For those who need a little extra guidance there are many weight loss services available at a cost of hundreds even thousands of dollars. Then again for just $12.98 you can get the book “Lose Live” and accomplish the same thing but keeping more of your money. http://www.lulu.com/shop/ron-irwin/lose-live/paperback/product-22328851.html