Mrs Warren’s Profession – Gingold Theatrical Group
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When George Bernard Shaw’s most infamous and provocative play premiered in New York in 1905, the entire cast was arrested on opening night. Not because the play deals with the subject of prostitution but because in it a woman dares tell the world that she lives her life according to her own principles and not within the narrow confines of her society.
At a time when women had no legal rights at all, Shaw challenged every aspect of women’s lives, examining how a woman could build a global empire on her own terms and set an unlikely example for her daughter and other women of her time.
In this highly amusing and timely play, Shaw examines how six dynamic people finally face their past to plan for their future, including the mysterious title character Mrs Warren and her daughter Vivie.
A fine cast, led by Broadway veteran Karen Ziemba as Mrs Warren and Nicole King, a newcomer, as Vivie, brings to life words by the most amusing and insightful playwright in the English language, the always-rascally George Bernard Shaw.
The production is directed by David Staller, who is a Shaw scholar and the much respected head of the Gingold Theatrical Group which is dedicated to Shaw's plays..
June 21-27 with a 48-hour viewing window. $25 +$1.95 service charge.
Semele – George Frederic Handel
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18th-century British aristocracy were shocked when their favourite composer, Handel, presented Semele during the Lent season. Expecting a solemn oratorio they were presented instead with a story of a sensual and adulterous relationship, and also some of Handel's most exquisitely beautiful music.
Drawn from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the sensual story explores a love triangle between Jupiter, King of the Gods, his wife, the goddess Juno, and his lover, the mortal princess Semele.
Rarely performed these days, Handel’s Baroque masterpiece Semele is an exciting mix of opera and oratorio. This is Opera New Zealand’s production featuring period Baroque instruments, conducted by Peter Walls and directed by Rebecca Tansley. It stars Emma Pearson, Amitai Pati, Sarah Castle, Paul Whelan, Stephen Diaz, Chelsea Doman, Sashe Angelovski
Lena Horne tribute to Nat King Cole
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Click here to watch
I just read that a Broadway theatre is being renamed for Lena Horne. Not before time, say I.
Lena (it is a measure of her fame that we can immediately identify her from just her first name) was supremely talented, impossibly beautiful, and fierce. She was the first African American woman to become a household name in the racially closed shop that was the Broadway and Hollywood of the 30s and 40s. She became a star as a singer, appearing with orchestras in nightclubs throughout the US, often in venues where she, because she was Black, was barred from staying or eating with her bandmates. She integrated Broadway and then turned her sights to Hollywood and, in the 40s, was one of the highest paid stars in show business.
A lifelong social activist, she worked tirelessly to ensure that other Black performers had opportunities that she earned for them. She never pulled her punches, her fame and determinination allowing her to espouse causes and opinions that were taboo in the racist America of the 40s and 50s.
Most of us now remember her as a singer so here’s a medley kindly sent to me by the fine singer/pianist Eric Comstock from a 1965 Perry Como television special which paid tribute to Lena’s great friend, Nat King Cole. The audio and video quality isn't good on this clip so here too is a 1994 TV special recorded at the Supper Club in New York.
Conflict – Mint Theater
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New York’s Mint Theater specialises in finding long-forgotten plays from the early 20th century and breathing life into them. Often, as here, they find one whose historical context is as resonant today as it was when it premiered in 1925.
Conflict is a love story set against the backdrop of a hotly contested election. The playwright, Miles Malleson, combined his two great passions: sex and politics. The result is a provocative romance that sizzles with both wit and ideas where the central theme is that of income inequality. How modern is that?
Dare Bellingdon is an apparently empty-headed debutante , who craves something more than marriage to her beau, Maj Ronald Clive, who is standing for Parliament as a Conservative. His opponent, the passionate and crusading Tom Smith, a firebrand, standing for Labour, presents new ideas about social reform and the redistribution of wealth, altogether a more attractive vision of a personal and political future. Not a polemic on either side, Malleson, one of the major playwrights of his time, carefully analyses Dare’s choices, sexual and political, in 1920s London.
Jessie Shelton stars as Dare and the play is directed by Mint Theater stalwart, Jenn Thompson.
June 17-July 10
Crowning Glory – Theatre Support Fund
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During the pandemic, everybody in the theatre and everybody who loved and missed the theatre, had something with this logo on it – a t-shirt, a notebook, a tote bag, a badge, a mug, a phone cover. I had a mask. The Show Must Go On became our mantra, our article of faith that the show would, in fact, go on when this awful time was over.
I became obsessed with the fact that, despite the theatres, the concert halls, the performance venues on both sides of the Atlantic being closed, and despite the fact that neither government even tried to help the thousands of performers and theatre workers who were precipitously thrown out of work, the performers themselves came through for one another in many different grassroots ways. One such is the Theatre Support Fund, just one of many small organisations who came together spontaneously to help their colleagues in need.
Crowning Glory is a new song which has been recorded by a team of musical theatre professionals to support performers devastated by Covid. Recorded in the style of Do They Know It's Christmas? with many featured soloists, Crowning Glory is not just relatable to anyone who dedicates themselves to the craft of performing but to all of us who have had to live through the challenges of the last two years and who continue to strive in spite of obstacles in our personal and professional lives.
The song was recorded in five hours with ten soloists and an ensemble of twelve representing the diversity of shows currently in the West End and proves yet again, if we ever doubted it, that performers and their backstage colleagues are brave and generous.
Ruth Leon is a writer and critic specialising in music and theatre.