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A CurtainUp Review
The Greenwich Village Follies
Director John-Andrew Morrison, who also serves as master of ceremonies, heads a terrific troupe that draws its inspiration from vaudeville but manages to give old-style routines a thoroughly modern twist. These talented performers (Meghann Dreyfus, Patti Goettlicher, John-Andrew Morrison and Guy Olivieri the night of this review) produce a perfect mixture of the sincere and the frivolous moments in Village history, from George Washington singing "My heart belongs to Washington Square" to the tongue-in-cheek dancing of the Stonewall protesters.
After a melodious celebration of the original Lenape tribe, the Sapokanican, the troupe sings a tribute, in Newyorkese, to the city's best known founder, "Oh, Peter, or the Day We Became New Yorkers" ("I think your wooden leg is a bit too tight"). Other famous individuals singled out for recognition include poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and gothic writer Edgar Allen Poe.
The Village's reputation for extravagance, innovation and alternative life styles is extolled in "Smoke, Smoke," "Dildo" and "Stonewall Girls." But the Follies is not all carefree song and dance.
Morrison's heartfelt rendering of the New Amsterdam slaves' (successful) plea for freedom, "The Eleven of Us," highlights the horrible institution this country was founded on. Goettlicher and Dreyfus, on the 100th anniversary of theTriangle Shirtwaist Fire, give the testimony of two witnesses to this low point in American labor in the plaintiff "On Our Corner.". Both songs bring home the less noble aspects of American history.
History buffs can show their stuff in The Village Follies Fact Contest. The lucky winners will even go home with a prize! And every night there's a special guest performer. For this reviewer, it was the effervescent and hilarious team of Mel & El, who have described themselves as "a musical Laverne and Shirley meets Sex and the City."
Although much of The Greenwich Village Follies celebrates the famous people who have passed through or lived in the Village, the show recognizes that "for every name we remember there's a thousand that we don't.". Along with nods to Martha Graham; the Beat poets; Peter, Paul and Mary; and The Fantasticks and Hair, there's also a salute to those valiant souls who resisted the Grid, which reorganized and standardized the streets of New York, allowing the Village to remain a neighborhood filled with those surprises that can only come to the lost and wandering.
Perhaps this is the heart of the Greenwich Village captured in this show that's derived from the original Greenwich Village Follies of 1922. Skyscrapers and suits may have taken over Uptown. But New Yorkers and visitors to this city can always take refuge in this neighborhood that has remained a village at heart, a community whose heart and soul cannot be contained in carefully drawn lines and limits.
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