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The Apple Tree
The Apple Tree: Another Encores! Revival Moves to Broadway
No musical theater season would be complete without the Encores! concert revivals. These semi-staged events may strike some as involving a stupendous amount of energy and talent for just a few performances— unless, of course, the series includes a show with sturdy enough legs to move to Broadway. Chicago made that move and has become a pure gold hit. Wonderful Town and Pajama Game aren't around any more but made the leap to regular Broadway runs quite successfully and for respectable runs. Now, the Roundabout has replanted the 2005 Encores! version of The Apple Tree at Studio 54.
(Photo: Joan Marcus) Krisin Cehnoweth and one of her new leading men, Marc Kudisch
Kristin Chenoweth, whose star power undoubtedly had a lot (if not everything) to do with this move of a musical triptych that's basically more a beautiful little bush than a big sturdy tree. Though Chenoweth was in kindergarten when these playlets were written, they seem made to order for the golden-voiced, comedically gifted, shapely diva of stage (You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. . . Wicked), screen (West Wing) and classical music world (star turns with major symphony orchestras and a 2010 Metropolitan opera debut in The Ghosts of Versailles). Now, as she did in the Encores! production, Chenoweth makes the most of these playlets —and then some. Her two new leading men, Marc Kudisch and Brian D'arcy James, support her with dash and vigor. Kudisch is especially impressive as the slithering snake in Mark Twain's version of the couple who started the man-woman-kids life cycle (The Diary of Adam and Eve), as a guitar strumming balladeer in Frank Stockton's you guess the end fairy tale (The Lady and the Tiger), and as the charming and witty narrator and fairy godfather in Jules Feiffer's sardonic modern Cinderella story (Passionella).
Unfortunately, even though Chenoweth and her men are terrific, Studio54 is not a fertile soil for this charming but light-weight triple layered confection. Relying on Chenoweth's magic and the Encores! reputation for succeeding despite, if not because of, its bare-bones staging, the folks at Roundabout have re-planted The Apple Tree on an artsy-craftsy fiber hanging that serves as a curtain to announce each play. This makes for a stage that's cavernously barren in the first and longest piece — with the main props a bunch of ladders (were these leftovers from some more elaborate John Lee Beatty set?) and a patch of grass for Chenoweth's Eve to enter on and cultivate that could have been borrowed from a grade school play. It doesn't help to have the orchestra moved from its prominent on stage position, an Encores! hallmark, to the balcony box seats at either side of the stage successfully used in previous Roundabout musicals. In fact, it seemed downright weird to see Rob Fisher vigorously conduct just a few musicians throughout and have the larger group with their backs to his screen projected conducting.
The stage does fill out for the two second act stories and Jess Goldstein's costumes and Charles LaPointe's hair and wig design are fun, as is Andy Blankenbuehler's choreography. But for all that, what was a delightful resucitation of a quirky mix of three stories connected by a gossamer thin boy meets bombshell of a girl thread, succeeds as a showcase for the super talented Chenoweth (her comedic flair reaches the stratosphere in Passionella) — but fails to support any other reasons for a major Broadway revival of the show itself. Unlike Chicago which has drawn crowds through any number of new Velmas and Roxies, Without Chenoweth, the show would collapse instantly, like a tree struck by a tornado.
The Apple Tree (The Diary of Adam and Eve, The Lady or the Tiger? and Passionella) at Studio 54, 254 West 54th Street
Directed by Gary Griffin
Choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler
The Diary of Adam and Eve
Cast: Kristin Chenoweth (Eve), Brian d'Arcy James (Adam) and Marc Kudisch (Snake).
The Lady or the Tiger?
Cast: Ms. Chenoweth (Princess Barbara), Mr. d'Arcy James (Captain Sanjar), Mr. Kudisch (Balladeer), Walter Charles (King Arik), Sarah Jane Everman (Prisoner's Bride), Lorin Latarro (Nadjira), Mike McGowan (Prisoner/Guard), Sean Palmer (Tiger), Dennis Stowe (Guard) and Meggie Cansler, Julie Connors, Ms. Everman, Justin Keyes, Ms. Latarro, Mr. McGowan, Mr. Palmer and Mr. Stowe (King Arik's Court).
Cast: Ms. Chenoweth (Ella/Passionella), Mr. d'Arcy James (Flip/the Prince/Charming), Mr. Kudisch (Narrator), Mr. Charles (Mr. Fallible/Producer), Ms. Connors (Reporter), Mr. Keyes (Newsboy), Mr. McGowan (Stage Hand), Mr. Stowe (Director) and Ms. Cansler, Ms. Connors, Ms. Everman, Mr. Keyes, Ms. Latarro, Mr. McGowan, Mr. Palmer and Mr. Stowe (Subway Riders/El Morocco Patrons/Fans/Flip's Following/Movie Set Crew).
Set Design: John Lee Beatty
Costume Design: Jess Goldstein
Lighting Design: Donald Holder
Sound Design :Dan Moses Schreier
Musical Direction & Vocal/Dance Arrangements: Rob Fisher
Orchestration: Jonathan Tunick
Hair & Wig Design: Charles LaPointe
From 11/28 to 3/11/07; opening 12/14/06
Tuesday - Saturday @8pm, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday @2pm
Tickets: $36.25 - $111.25
-- Elyse Sommer's Review of City Center Encores! Production of The Apple Tree
Kristin Chenoweth is a dazzling musical diva who brings back memories of powerhouse performers from the golden era of Broadway musical -- with an hourglass figure, dynamic stage presence, superb comic timing, and a voice that soars to the musical heavens. Her charisma is such that she tends to overshadow her co-stars. Yet, while Chenoweth was indeed the diamond of the delightful Encores! concert revival of The Apple Tree (1966), Malcolm Gets (as all the romantic leads) and Michael Cerveris (as a charismatic Snake in the Adam and Eve piece and narrator of the other two pieces), fully deserved their co-star billing. So, of course, did long-time Encores! orchestra leader, Rob Fisher, whose swan song this is.
(Photo: Joan Marcus )
This musical triptych made for a stellar finale for this year's as always invaluable Encores!. The stories, all fantasies about love, are separate in terms of authorship but equal in terms of their charms.
The Diary of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain is the longest and most fully realized of the three playlets, a tongue-in-cheek, beginning of time variation of The Fourposter. The two post-intermission stories still star Chenoweth, Gets and Cerveris but with the addition of an ensemble to provide some colorful choreography. Frank Stockton's tale about a long ago semi-barbaric kingdom retains its famously ambiguous ending and works remarkably well with the more modern Passionella, Jules Feiffer's comic confection about a chimney sweep whose dream of being a gorgeous movie star.
As usual in this justifiably popular series, the orchestra is right on stage, the sets minimal but just right, with plenty of eye-popping costumes, especially a glittering white gown for Chenoweth's Passionella. Director Gary Griffin added some clever bits of business to make the scripts the performers always carry in these productions integral to the show's comic elements.
Although the songs in this show, unlike those in Fiddler, aren't instantly recognizable or compulsively hummable, they are varied and richly melodic. As anyone who was lucky enough to catch one of the five performances will agree, they provided a splendid showcase for the current stars' acting and vocal talents and flawless comic timing.
Of course the question with any Encores! show is always-- is this concert revival likely to seed a longer revival at a Broadway house, shades of the super hit Chicago or the popular if not quite as durable Wonderful Town. I'm a critic, not a seer, so your guess is as good as mine. For sure, this latest example of Chenoweth's ever more assured star power should have someone out there writing a musical in which she can be a real diva rather than just adorable.
As this is being posted on the show's final day, I can't tell you to go see The Apple Tree. I can urge you, however, to watch for next season's offerings.
The Apple Tree, 3 One Act Musicals.
Book, Music and Lyrics by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick
Based on stories by Mark Twain, Frank R. Stockton & Jules Feiffer
Additional book material by Jerome Coopersmith.
Director: Gary Griffin
The Encores! Orchestra Music Director: Rob Fisher
Concert adaptation: David Ives
Cast: Starring Kristin Chenoweth, Michael Cerveris, Malcolm Gets; with Daniel Marcus, Tony Capone, Julie Craig, Nikki Renee Daniels, Emily Rabon Hall, Ian Knauer, Jessica Kostival, Darren Lee, Krisha Marcano, Cindy Machionda, Michele Ragusa, Devin Richards, Andre Ward, Christopher Windom, Tony Yarzbeck -- and the voice of James Earl Jones
Scenic consultant: John Lee Beatty
Costume consultant: Jess Goldstein
Sound: Scott Lehrer
Lighting: Ken Billington
Music coordinator:Seymour Red Press
Original orchestration: Eddie Sauter
Running time: 2 hours with intermission.
Encores! at City Center, 55th St. (6/7 Avenues)
From 5/12/05 to 5/17/05
Thu - Sat at 8pm; Sat at 2pm; Sun at 6:30pm; Mon (gala) at 7pm.
Tickets: Tickets: $90 to $25.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on May 15th performance
The Diary of Adam and Eve based on a short story by Mark Twain.
Malcom Gets as Adam, Kristin Chenoweth as Eve, Michael Cerveris as Snake.
Eden Prelude - Orchestra
Here in Eden - Eve
Feelings - Eve
Eve - Adam
Friends - Eve
The Apple Tree (Forbidden Fruit) - Snake
Beautiful, Beautiful World - Adam
It's a Fish - Adam
Go to Sleep, Whatever You Are - Eve
What Makes Me Love Him - Eve
The Lady or the Tiger? by Frank R. Stockton
Based on a short story by Frank R. Stockton.
Michael Cerveris as Balladeer, Daniel Marcus as King Arik, Kristin Chenoweth as Princess Barbara, Tony Capone as Prisoner, Darren Lee as Tiger, Julie Craig as Prisoner's Bride, Krisha Marcano as Nadjira, Malcolm Gets as Captain Sanjuar, Tony Yarbeck and David Richards as Guards; plus ensemble a King Ark's Court
The Lady or the Tiger Prelude- The Orchestra
I'll Tell You a Truth - Balladeer
Make Way - King's Court, King Arik
Forbidden Love (In Gaul) - Princess Barbara, Captain Sanjar
The Apple Tree (reprise) - Balladeer
I've Got What You Want - Princess Barbara
Tiger, Tiger - Princess Barbara
Make Way (reprise) - King's Court
Which Door? - Captain Sanjar, Princess Barbara, King Arik, King's Court
I'll Tell You a Truth (reprise) - Balladeer
Passionella based on novella by Jules Feiffer
Michael Cerveris as Narrator, Kristin Chenoweth as Ella and Passionella, Daniel Marcus as Mr. Fallible and Producer, Ian Knauer as Director, Tony Yazbeck as Reporter, Christopher Windom as Newboy, Malcolm Gets as Flip the Prince Charming; plus the ensemble as Flip's Following and Movie Set Crew.
Pasionella Mini Overture-The Orchestra
Oh, To Be a Movie Star - Ella
Gorgeous - Ella
(Who, Who, Who, Who) Who Is She? - The Company
Wealth - Ella
You Are Not Real - Prince Charming, Company
George L. - Ella, Prince Charming