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July 28, 2011

Broadway in Bryant Park recap: ‘Anything Goes’ and ‘The Phantom of the Opera’

by Jesse North

The oldie musicals came to Broadway in Bryant Park this week to show the newbies who’s boss. The lively casts of The Phantom of the Opera, The Fantasticks, Hair, and Anything Goes performed their classic, well-trodden material with fresh enthusiasm.

At first, I wasn’t so sure about the Phantom set. Kyle Barisich and Marni Raab sang a sweet “All I Ask of You,” but the acting was so out of context on the Bryant Park stage that I had trouble holding back a few snide laughs. I shut up when Hugh Panaro took the stage for “Music of the Night.” The Broadway A-lister and long-time Phantom sang the famous number with remarkable control, and his power notes filled the park effortlessly.

VIDEO: Hugh Panaro sings “Music of the Night” from The Phantom of the Opera

Every week at Bryant Park, there seems to be one act from a show that isn’t a musical. It usually seems out of place and relies on some sort of visual spectacle that doesn’t translate to this outdoor stage. This week, that performance was from the off-Broadway show Traces, but it didn’t fall victim to that same fate. An acrobatic show with street elements, Traces effectively brought beautiful dance and elaborate prop use onto the stage and created the most memorable act of the day. Two attractive dancers performed a dramatic dance of a come-and-go romance. The man swiftly swooping up his female counterpart would throw her over his shoulder and back around his body. Their expressionistic performance was filled with wow moments. Then another male performer took to the stage with a large silver hoop and rolled around the space while placing his body within the circle. The command he had over the prop now makes it no longer an excuse for shows not to be able to bring stuff onto the Bryant Park stage. Traces is the first spectacle show I’ve seen on the Bryant Park stage that worked.

Getting back to the classic and traditional, the cast of The Fantasticks sang the show’s simple but pretty songs with stellar voices. Matt Leisy, who sat down with Stage Rush last fall, excellently portrayed innocent, young love with his counterpart Juliette Trafton. The production’s El Gallo understudy, Charles West, fit into the strong and arrogant shoes well. Broadway in Bryant Park just wouldn’t be the same without that, “Follow follow follow follow follow…”

Sending all that is clean and sweet flying from the stage in the wake of The Fantasticks’ set, the gigantic cast of Hair took up the entire length of the platform and rang out with “Aquarius.” Strong as ever, the earthy performers were at their most comfortable in the outdoor setting, hearkening back to summer 2008 when the musical played like magic in Central Park. Caren Lyn Tackett performed “Easy To Be Hard” with conviction as her tribe swayed behind her. (Not to mention that she looked like a total babe in her torn peace-sign t-shirt. Boy, does that Hair cast know how to wear mangled clothes well!) Paris Remillard and Steel Burkhardt lead the cast in the title number, and they managed to dance lively around the stage, despite there barely being any room with the whole tribe up there.

After four strong acts, I couldn’t believe there was one more to go, but up came select cast members from the constant-sellout revival of Anything Goes. Tony winner Sutton Foster was a no show, sadly; however, her understudy Tari Kelly did just fine on the vocals, if not lacking some of Foster’s grace. She performed particularly well with Joel Grey’s understudy, Robert Creighton, on “Friendship,” the two performers hamming it up so much that it seemed they might knock each other off the stage. In the Good Looks department, Laura Osnes and Colin Donnell were almost too much pretty for human eyes to handle on their duet “It’s De-Lovely.”

VIDEO: Laura Osnes and Colin Donnell sing “It’s De-Lovely” from Anything Goes

Set lists:

The Phantom of the Opera
“All I Ask of You”
“Music of the Night”

Melodramatic toss-your-lover dance
Hulahoop on steroids

The Fantasticks
“Never Say No”
“Soon It’s Gonna Rain”
“I Can See It”
“Try To Remember”

“Easy To Be Hard”
“Let The Sunshine In”

Anything Goes
“You’re The Top”
“It’s De-Lovely”

What did you think of the concert, Rushers? Did you walk away once again believing in musicals with staying power? Who was your favorite? Did Traces make your jaw drop? Let’s ask the real question—who was the most attractive at this week’s concert? Leave the comments that come out of your drooling mouth below!

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