The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us

A CurtainUp Review
The Glorious Ones

Jeremy Webb and Marc Kudisch in The Glorious Ones.
Jeremy Webb and Marc Kudisch in The Glorious Ones.
(Photo: Joan Marcus )
Improvisational theater was not, as some may be inclined to think, born in Chicago. This art was born in Italy during the 16th century and performed by touring troupes of skilled actors who portrayed stereotypical characters dressed in colorful costumes and wearing leather masks. That style known as commedia dell'arte was notable for being fast, furious and funny. The Glorious Ones, a new musical about that tradition with a praise-worthy score by Stephen Flaherty (music) and Lynn Ahrens (book and lyrics) gives us all of the above and more.

First praise, however, must go to director-choreographer Graciela Daniele who has not only complied with the aforementioned requisites, but recreated the commedia brand of comedy with fearless abandon. It is evident that she inspired the terrific cast headed by dashing and charismatic Marc Kudisch. Despite Kudisch being center stage for much of the time in his role as Flaminio Scala, the founder and star of the troupe that began the tradition, all the performances are a tribute to those innovative players of yore.

The marvelous composing team of Flaherty and Ahrens have come up with a charming, melodious and clever score. It is so rich and flavorful that it makes one pant for the release of the CD. As in the past, these long time parrtners have ventured into rarified territory to create a lovely and rewarding piece of musical theater. They are fortunate that Lincoln Center Theater is once again supportive of their work, as they were for A Man of No Importance and Dessa Rose.

Like their other Broadway produced work, the brilliantly composed Ragtime, and the charming and underappreciated Seussical, The Glorious Ones is rich with their signature flavors of sweet melodies and clever lyrics. Its unique fact-based story, as adapted from the novel by Francine Prose, supposes the origins of the commedia and its players as we see how their idiosyncratic characteristics are destined to become the classic archetypes.

The musical has been craftily designed by Dan Ostling: a bi-level unit set of wooden planks flanked by a pair of stairways leading to a perch where the musicians can be seen and, in one instance, used as a part of a gag. The gifted players make excellent use of a small stage with a mini curtain atop the lower playing area that serves as the streets of Italy in the late 1500s. It is all quite compact and engaging.

While the tradition of Commedia calls for broad strokes and bawdy illusions, Daniele's staging of the hi-jinks and low comedy is consistently disarming, particularly as they are incorporated into the classically commemorative skits. Yet, it is the often hilarious characterizations that ultimately define this musical. And so, while it is close to being a chamber opera, it is delightfully far from high brow with the action often quite purposely very low-brow.

Kudisch is splendid as an egotistic carouser who shapes the troupe of "cranky maladjusted misfits" to perform in his crass but truthful improvisatory style. He has plenty to sing, but "Madness to Act,""Improvisation," "I Was Here" and the title song are notable arias. The musical spends almost half of its 100 minutes establishing the endearing personalities and talents of the various players. Belated conflicts arise when their appearance before a shocked royal court in Paris is a fiasco and they are ordered to leave the country or be arrestedsome — and when some members of the troupe begin to see that their bawdy improvisatory style has begun to wane.

Erin Davie is luminous as Isabella, an aristocratic young woman who joins the troupe and falls in love with Flaminio's protégé, Francesco (Jeremy Webb). Davie's aria "The World She Writes" and Webb's acrobatically enhanced "Absolom" provide more musical highlights and also heighten the late in the show conflicts. Flaminio resents Isabella's talent for writing scripts while his lover Columbina, portrayed with lusty sensuality by Natalie Venetia Belcon, resents her for taking over the roles of the troupe's ingenue.

There is rarely a moment that David Patrick, as an elfin Pantalone, Julyana Soelistyo, as the petite and touchingly funny mascot Armanda Ragusa, and John Kassir, as the daffy Dottore are not fulfilling their task to make us laugh.

As you might expect, our eyes are often drawn to Mara Blumenfeld's whimsical period costumes even as Stephen Strawbridge's lighting makes sure we don't miss any of the rousing ribaldry. There is also a tender denouement in this lovely musical that may just put a tear in your eye.

Man of No Importance
Dessa Rose

Some Second Thoughts by Elyse Sommer

I saw the show the same night that Simon did. While this is indeed an outstanding ensemble that works beautifully together —a must for this sort of chamber musical— this is very much the talented Marc Kudisch's show. With his resonant baritone and powerful presence he's a true old-fashioned style leading man and I can think of any number of leading roles I'd love to see him in (Kiss me Kate, Camelot. . .I could go on). If the ensemble could be said to have a female scene stealer, it would that tiny bundle of charm, Julyana Soelisty — and that's with a cast featuring two impressive leading ladies, the ethereally lovely Erin Davie and the sexy, smoky-voiced Natalie Venetial Belcon.

I should add a caveat for those who, like me, tend not to be bowled over by very broad humor so that some of the troupe's play-within-play business, especially the jokes relying on flatulence, tended to fall —well, flat. On the other hand, I'd like to add a special round of applause for the excellent little band and for the subtle amplification. Having just seen the musical adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, with the singer's over amplified and looking rather weird with their head mikes, it's a pleasure to see musical direction that recognizes the needs of a small theater and the particular inappropriateness of head mikes in a period piece.

Book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Based on the novel by Francine Prose
Directed and choreographed by Graciela Daniele
Natalie Venetia Belcon (Columbina), Erin Davie (Isabella Andreini/Young Boy Actor), John Kassir (Dottore), David Patrick Kelly (Pantalone), Marc Kudisch (Flaminio Scala), Julyana Soelistyo (Armanda Ragusa) and Jeremy Webb (Francesco Andreini/Comic Servant).
Sets by Dan Ostling
Costumes by Mara Blumenfeld
Lighting by Stephen Strawbridge
Sound by Scott Stauffer
Orchestrations by Michael Starobin
Music direction by David Holcenberg;
Vocal arrangements by Mr. Flaherty
Orchestra: Conductor/Piano- David Holcenberg; Associate Conductor/Keyboard 2-Deborah Abramson Viol In/Mandolin -Cenovia Cummins; Cello-Katie Schlaikjer; Reeds-Scott Shachter; French Horn-Will De Vos; Bass-Marc Schmied; Percussion-Norbert Goldberg; Cuatro-David Patrick Kelly.
Music Coordinator-John Miller Associate director-choreographer, Madeleine Ehlert-Kelly.
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, Lincoln Center; (212) 239-6200. Running time: 100 minutes without interminutes
From 10/11/07 to 1/06/08; opening 11/05/07 October 11.
Reviewed by Simon Salzman on11/07/07
Musical Numbers
  • Prologue: The Glorious Ones/ Flaminio Scale, The Glorious Ones
  • Making Love /Columbine, Flaminio and Troupe
  • Pantalone Alone / Pantalone
  • The Comedy of Love/Pantalone, Armanda Ragusa, and Troupe
  • Scenario: The Madness of Columbine /The Glorious Ones
  • The Comedy of Love (reprise) /Pantalone, Armanda Raousa
  • The Glorious Ones (reprise) /Flaminio
  • Madness to Act /Flaminio
  • Absalom/ Francesco
  • The Invitation to France / Doctore
  • Flaminio Scale's Historical Journey to France/ The Glorious Ones
  • Two Lazzi /The Glorious Ones
  • Armanda'sTarantella /Armanda, Men
  • Improvisation / Flaminio
  • The World She Writes/ IsabeIla Andreini
  • Opposite You /Franccsco, lsabella
  • My Body Wasn't Why/ Columbine
  • Scenario: The Madness of Isabella /The Glorious Ones
  • Flaminio Scale's Ominous Dream /Flaminio and Troupe
  • The World She Writes (reprise) / Francesco
  • Rise and Fall /Dottore and Troupe
  • The Moon Woman, A Play The Glorious Ones
  • The Glorious Ones (reprise) Flaminio
  • 1 Was Here / Flaminio
  • Armanda's Sack /Armanda and Troupe
  • Finale/ The Glorious Ones

  • Google


    ©Copyright 2007, Elyse Sommer.
    Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from