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Arts & Entertainment
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LAST MINUTE TOUCHES... Kathy Burns and Tom Cruise in makeup stage, hours before a visiting New York talent agent lifts Cruise away to stardom.
Courtesy of Kathy Burns
Take the Stage Special Double Take Coverage
The Price Ensemble Gives Arthur Miller’s Work Its Best
By KERRIANNE SPELLMAN CORT
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times
WESTFIELD — The Price, one of the least recognized plays by Arthur Miller, has recently come back into focus on Broadway, produced by David Richenthal and The Williamstown Theatre Festival. That production, directed by James Naughton, closed on March 5 after a limited run. Mr. Miller’s incredible work includes American theatre classics such as The Crucible, All My Sons, A View from the Bridge, and the Pulitzer Prize winning drama Death of a Salesman.
Miller is one of the finest playwrights of our time, and it is wonderful to see his lesserknown work being produced. The Price was first presented in 1968 at the Morosco Theatre in New York. With the enormous success of Miller’s later plays, The Price quietly faded into the background, never quite becoming the type of material that sparks heated discussions and debates at acting schools across the country.
The story focuses on the relationship between two estranged brothers, one a successful doctor, the other a middleclass police officer. Sixteen years after the death of their domineering father, the two are forced back together to divide the family belongings.
In an attempt to avoid facing one another, the furniture and heirlooms sat untouched, but now, with the imminent demolition of the home in which they grew up, the brothers have no choice but to reunite.
On the heels of the recently closed revival of The Price at The Royale Theatre on Broadway, Westfield Community Players (WCP), has staged their own production of this intimate family drama. This is a difficult piece, and WCP does an admirable job.
At first glance, this play appears to be about two grudgeholding brothers, a disillusioned and
SPFHS Repertory Theatre Gives Good Effort in Grease
By MICHELLE H. LePOIDEVIN
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times
SCOTCH PLAINS – Grease’s
saga of Sandy and Danny was resurrected in a commendable effort by the Scotch PlainsFanwood High School Repertory Theatre last Saturday evening, as an ensemble of nearly 60 students took to the auditorium stage.
Meryl Bezrutczyk, who portrayed the sassy Betty Rizzo rivaled Stockard Channing’s performance
in the original. Full of spunk and grit, Meryl was always in character and never flinched or lost her place. Strong and unwavering vocals made hers’ a stellar performance, especially during the Rizzo favorite when she taunts Sandy, “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee.”
Operatic and pure was the voice of Courtney McDonald, who held the lead role of Sandy Dumbrowski. Although I would have like to have seen more emotion projected in her delivery of those vocals and her lines, Courtney offered a pleasant rendition of Sandy.
All of the Pink Ladies (Chrissy Perrotta as Jan, Lindsey Davis as Frenchy, and Laine Bonstein as Marty) deserve kudos for their energy and heartfelt enthusiasm they brought to their characters. Chrissy was especially full of lighthearted verve during her performance with the unbelievably talented and comic John Corbin as Roger.
James L’Heureux as the wisecracking Kenickie and Raj Mukherji as Sonny Latierri were brilliant in their supporting roles. Raj’s streetwise accent and gestures kept the audience laughing and loving him. Ian Wehrle, who played fellow TBird Doody incorporated a healthy dose of humor and sincerity to his role. Kudos to the black leather jacket clad TBirds.
Ian Bonner gave the role of pompadoured heartthrob Danny Zuko fantastic flavor and punch. His vocals were also impressive, especially in a scene when Sandy fled the drivein after he asked her to go steady.
Nearly stealing the show with his vocals was Gary Fletcher, who received heaps of hoots and hollers from supporters in the audience for his portrayal of Teen Angel during “Beauty School Dropout” in which Gary sang to a forlorn Frenchy (Lindsey Davis). His voice, which boomed out even to the last rows of the auditorium, was full of style and promise. Fletcher also had the talent to play Johnny Casino.
Choreography, which was spearheaded by Courtney McDonald, was excellently accomplished. Costumes were true to the poodle skirt and pompadour quality that makes us long to return to this 1950’s setting time and time again.
Saxophone player Whitney Slaten and fellow band members Emily Chan, Evan Flath, Edward Jackson, Chris Nelson, Brett Pocorobba, Brian Raszka and Pete Hogan were wonderful and never missed a beat.
Set design was innovative, except for a few signs set up for the dance scene, which were much too small for audience members to read.
All in all, the Repertory Theatre took some clever comedic risks and ran with them, successfully. From Roger’s “mooning” the crowd with his “Hi Mom” underpants to a fun little golf cart which looked like a lot of fun to drive, Grease gave audience members an evening worthy of applause. greedy wife and a retired furniture
dealer, spending an evening together, arguing. After further exposition, the piece reveals itself as a tale of family ties and the resentment that arises from unachieved dreams.
The brilliant work of Miller aside, it is evident why this is one of his plays that never received critical acclaim. The writing is exemplary, the theme is entirely clear, but somehow, the audience fails to care about these characters. This leads one to question whether it is the performance or the play itself that is lacking.
The actors in the current production at WCP turn in commendable work, with frank, earnest performances. At some points during this production, it was obvious that the audience was losing interest, and it was disconcerting to see that happen.
The message of this piece is unclouded and the creative writing stands on its own, but the fact that this play failed to enchant the audience is not the fault of the actors.
This is a loquacious, monologueheavy script that carries deep messages about the importance of virtue within the family. The four characters are welldeveloped, in
IN REHEARSAL... Four members of The Price ensemble at the Westfield Community Players practice their lines. Pictured, left to right, are: Bud Moore, Janet Aspinwall, Stan Kaplan, seated, and John Becker.
teresting individuals who all have hopes and dreams that they have yet to fulfill.
This production would flow a bit more seamlessly if it had faster pacing. A wordy script such as this demands that the actors stay on their toes and not let a moment go by that is devoid of action. This is simply the only way of keeping a repetitive script such as this moving.
The play is not boring, but at times it can be longwinded, and the actors have the exhausting job of keeping the audience interested. Applause goes to all four of the performers in this production at WCP.
John Becker, in the role of Victor Franz, the police officer who sacrificed his dreams to pacify his father, is endearing. Victor is a righteous man, intent on doing what’s right, and Mr. Becker is very accomplished.
Janet Aspinwall has the arduous job of playing a character that you would like to smack across the face, but she does her task extremely well, playing the role of Esther Franz, Victor’s pennypinching wife. You could easily hate Esther, but Ms. Aspinwall distinctly shows the character’s many sides,
and she is very effective. Stan Kaplan is delightful in the role of Gregory Solomon, the antique and furniture dealer. He has some wonderful moments as a very funny, but very real gentleman who has long since retired from the household furnishings business. He is the only one who does not have an emotional investment in the family’s belongings, and oddly, he is the wisest of them all.
And last, but not least, Bud Moore turns in a distinguished performance as Walter Franz, the doctor in the family. Mr. Moore has the difficult job of bringing human qualities to a role that is basically despicable, but he somehow makes the character likable.
All in all, the WCP production of
The Price is honorable. The work that the actors did was visible, and it would be nice to see patrons jumping to their feet for them. I doubt that this particular play would ever bring an audience to its feet, but WCP gave its all, and it was appreciated.
The Price was directed by Edison resident Gordon Weiner and continues its run at WCP on Friday and Saturday, March 24 and 25.
Oratorio Singers To Present Annual Concert
WESTFIELD — The First United Methodist Church of Westfield will be the setting at 3 p. m. on Sunday, March 26, for the 20th annual concert of the Oratorio Singers under the direction of Trent Johnson, organist/ choirmaster and at the Westfield Methodist Church.
Featured works will be Sir Edward Elgar’s “The Music Makers” and Felix Mendelssohn’s “SymSandra
phony Cantata, Hymn of Praise.” Soloists for this performance include, Jeannette Ferrell Maraffi, soprano; Sandra Rains West, mezzo soprano, and Thomas Trotter, tenor.
The Oratorio Singers is a large chorus which performs major choral works with soloists and full orchestrations. The year 2000 performance will mark the sixth season that Mr. Johnson has directed this chorus.
Ms. Ferrell Maraffi, soprano, has established an international singing career, in opera, oratorio and recitals. She has been a frequent soloist with the Oratorio Singers of Westfield in performances. She is cofounder of the American PerThomas
formance Studios in Mountainside where she teaches singing, and continues to work at the annual Rome Festival, Italy, as a vocal coach and solo performer.
Ms. Rains West, mezzo soprano, retains a large repertoire of oratorios, numbering over 30. In April, she will sing “Verdi’s Requiem” at the Haddonfield United Methodist Church with members of the Philadelphia Symphony. She has performed in concerts throughout the U. S., Asia and South America.
Tenor, Mr. Trotter, a native of Atlanta, Ga., is a singer of versatility, who is at home in opera, oratorio, and the concert stage. He made
Trent Johnson Jeannette Ferrell Maraffi
his Lincoln Center debut at the New York City Opera last season. He was a world finalist in the Lucianno Pavarotti International Vocal Competition. Mr. Trotter is also a tenor soloist at St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City.
Tickets for this concert are $15 for adults and $10 for senior citizens
and students. Tickets are available at Lancasters, Ltd. or the First United Methodist Church office in Westfield and in Scotch Plains at the Scotch Plains Music Center on Park Avenue.
For concert information, please call (908) 2334211. This arts program is made possible in part by a HEART Grant from the Union Country Board of Chosen Freeholders, Daniel P. Sullivan, Chairman. “I’d just tell him that I’m really
happy for him and all he’s done,” she said. “With someone like Bill Cosby or any other huge star, it would be different. I’d be in awe. But with Tom, it really would feel like seeing an old friend.”
Despite her position as the proposed target for observation by a reputable talent agent that fateful night, today Ms. Burns refuses the envy many would feel.
“My sister was hurt when Tom made it because she herself was so close to her dream,” she said. “But me? No. I know he has such talent, and if he was a bad actor making all that money I’d be mad. But he’s a good actor. Plus, I’ve heard about a lot of celebrities who are so famous that they have to hide when they go out, and they can’t even be themselves in public.” mire his fame. But I don’t admire
the price he might pay.” Ms. Burns has owned a “fulfilling”
acting career on a different level, and her own special mark in life of being a wife and mother she considers second to none.
“If they make a mistake everybody knows it. Then people blame them, expecting them to be a role model. So they can’t be who they are because they have to hide,” she noted. “That’s one thing I don’t admire. I admire his money. I ad “I myself feel very blessed and
grateful for what I have,” she professed. “Once you have children and a full life, a happy marriage and a career, it gives you a sense of contentment. So I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Junior League to Present A Literary Luncheon With Four Noted Authors
The Junior League of ElizabethPlainfield will host “A Literary Luncheon” on Wednesday, April 5, from 11 a. m. to 3 p. m. at The Chanticler in Short Hills. Proceeds will benefit the League’s community projects serving families in crisis in Union County.
The event will feature a distinguished panel of authors who will discuss their literary careers and sign copies of their books for guests.
Scheduled to speak are:
·Diane Goode, an awardwinning author and illustrator of children’s books best known for her anthologies of folktales and songs. Her works include “When I Was Young in the Mountains,” “Mama’s Perfect Present” and “Where’s Our
GENEROUS DONATIONS... Literary Luncheon Committee member, Jill Sawyer of Westfield, reviews donated items for the Junior League of ElizabethPlainfield’s upcoming “A Literary Luncheon” event on Wednesday, April 5. The luncheon will feature authors Sylvia Weinstock, Belva Plain, Diane Goode and Linda Fairstein.
·Sylvia Weinstock – baker and cake decorator who will discuss her newest novel, “Sweet Celebrations.” She has created cakes for Liam Neeson, Donald Trump, Eddie Murphy, Cindy Lauper and Whitney Houston.
·Belva Plain, who authored “Evergreen” which was published in 1978 and became a miniseries on NBC, topping the New York Times Bestseller List for 41 years. Her next novel,
“After the Fire,” will be released in April.
·Linda Fairstein, America’s foremost prosecutor of crimes of sexual assault and domestic violence, has run the Sex Crimes Unit of the District Attorney’s Office in Manhattan for over two decades. Her first novel, “Final Jeopardy,” was published in 1996 as well as “Likely to Die” in 1998.
Proceeds will benefit diabetes research funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International.
Tickets are $50 each and are available by calling (908) 7091177. Tickets may also be purchased at The Jumble Store in Cranford, Prudential Realty and the Book Lover’s Outlet, both
of Westfield. The Junior League of ElizabethPlainfield is an organization of women committed to improving their community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Sponsorship for this luncheon has been provided by Sanford Bernstein, Paine Webber, PNC Bank, The Saint Barnabas Foundation, Summit Bank, Unity Bank and other local businesses.
CRANFORD – The Theater Project at Union County College will present The Golden Fleece, two oneact plays by A. R. Gurney in the Roy W. Smith Theater on the Cranford Campus from Thursday, March 23, to Saturday, April 1.
These performances will be held Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p. m. with one matinee on April 1 at 3 p. m.
Following each performance, a “meet the actors” reception will be held at which refreshments will be sold.
Tickets are $5 for students and senior citizens with $10 for general admission. Senior citizens will receive free tickets on March 23. For ticket reservations, please call (908) 6595189.
The Golden Fleece Planned At Union County College
Covering Fanwood, Mountainside, Scotch Plains and Westfield, Union County, New Jersey (NJ)