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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Review - HARVEY on Broadway with Jim Parsons

Charlotte and Elwood
Last night (Wednesday, June 13) my daughter Charlotte and I saw HARVEY on Broadway with Jim Parsons (of TV's "Big Bang Theory") and Jessica Hecht. Charlotte and I made an evening of it with dinner at Sardi's and a stroll through Times Square. I'll start out with a quick review of the show and then relate a few thoughts about the rest of the evening.


For those not familiar with Mary Chase's Pulitzer Prize winning comedy, HARVEY is the story of Elwood P. Dowd (Parsons), a kind, gentle mild mannered man who makes friends with everyone he meets. This causes a bit of a problem when he befriends Harvey, a 6-foot 3-inch white rabbit who is, of course, invisible to everyone else. Fed up with her brothers odd behavior, Elwood's sister Veta Louise Simmons (Hecht) decides to have Elwood committed. When the doctor at the sanitarium mistakenly thinks it is Elwood's sister who needs to be committed, hilarity ensues. HARVEY opened on Broadway in 1944 with Frank Fay as Elwood and Josephine Hull as Veta. The role of Elwood was later played by James Stewart who recreated the role in the 1950 film (which also starred Hull who won an Oscar for her performance.).


Those who do know the film often think of it mostly as a star vehicle for Stewart, but in reality it is very much an ensemble piece. To that point, this is a wonderful ensemble cast. Every performance was strong, and in fact the actors playing the two smallest roles (Elwoods "Aunt Ethel" and a cab driver) both received enthusiastic applause when their scenes were over. The stars of the show - Mr. Parsons and Ms. Hecht - both gave terrific performances. Both actors are somewhat younger than the roles are normally played, which brought a certain energy to the show that it might have otherwise lacked. This also meant that the cast was able to play up the shows many sexual double-entedres, greatly enhancing the humor. One standout scene was between Parson's Elwood and veteran comic actress Carol Kane (of TV's "Taxi") as the wife of the head of the sanitarium. The way Mr. Parsons and Ms Kane played off of each other was priceless.


One of the reasons I was excited about seeing this show was that it gave me the oportunity to see another actors take on a role that I myself had once played. I played Elwood a few years ago in an amateur theater in Connecticut. This experience was quite fascinating to me as Mr. Parsons somewhat twitchy approach to the role, while very much an approach that maintained the integrity of the character, could not have been more different from the approach I chose to take. Speaking of having done the role, my familiarity with the play meant that I noticed a few additional lines toward the end of the play - not in the original text - which nicely capped the story arch of two of the minor characters. A very nice touch.


Speaking of nice touches, I have to give kudos to director Scott Ellis for his wonderful handling of the ensemble cast as well as David Rockwell's ingenious set which broke apart and came back together like a giant origami. This is a first-rate revival of a classic commedy and I recommend it. The show opens tonight (June 14) - the performance we saw was the final preview.


Living the dream!
As I mentioned earlier, this was the cap of a very nice evening for Charlotte and I. After getting off of work I picked Charlotte up at Grand Central and we walked to Sardi's. While it would have not been my first choice, Charlotte wanted to go to the restaurant with "the pictures of all the famous people". And I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Charlotte had cheese ravioli which she absolutely loved. I had a bite and it was, indeed, quite tasty with a simple yet delicious cream tomato sauce. I hade a club sandwich which was quite good, and the french fries were cooked perfectly. Simple food, yet well prepared.


After dinner we walked to the theater via Times Square. We stopped in the new Disney Store and looked around. One thing we saw was a mannequin with a dress for Merida, Disney's newest princess. Upon seeing the mannequin Charlotte exclaimed "that mannequin is living the dream!" If you want to understand that refference, you'll have to read about our 2010 trip to Walt Disney World.

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