The musical adaptation of Love’s Labour’s Lost in Central Park reassembles the major dudes responsible for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson – writer/director Alex Timbers (who adapted Shakespeare’s early comedy), songwriter Michael Friedman, choreographer Danny Mefford, and some key players (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe and the hilarious Jeff Hiller). The show is even more fantastic than I could have dreamed it would be – a fast, funny, smart update of one of Shakespeare’s un-sacred texts. The four aristocrats renouncing pleasure are frat boys (they open the show ceremonially locking in a trunk a six-pack, a bong, and a string of condoms) who are as cute as a boy band. The four party girls who tease them out of their vows hit the stage like the cast of Bridesmaids crashing the set of Girls.
The nutty secondary comic plot actually sizzles because of Caesar Samayoa’s brave and funny turn as Don Armado, with a lot of help from his Jacquenetta (Rebecca Naomi Jones, late of Murder Ballad) and the band (musical director Justin Levine jumps in and out of the action playing Moth). The cast is full of newly minted downtown stars – Daniel Breaker (Passing Strange), Colin Donnell (Anything Goes, the Encores! version of Merrily We Roll Along), Patti Murin (Lysistrata Jones), and, hello, Rachel Drach for good measure. I especially enjoyed Audrey Lynn Weston’s stoner-chick Katherine. Friedman’s songs are fiendishly witty (I think I heard the word “apothegms” fly by in one of the lyrics), and Timbers happily ladles in references to Hair, Passing Strange, and (for some reason) Einstein on the Beach. I would gladly see this show several more times. I can’t believe it’s not going to extend or move after its scheduled run in the park finishes next Sunday. It’s every bit as good as anything I’ve seen in Central Park.
I think I’d gotten a vague inkling that Woody Allen’s new movie Blue Jasmine somehow referenced A Streetcar Named Desire, but watching the movie I couldn’t believe how note-for-note the plot follows Tennessee Williams – one more instance of Woody Allen defying predictability. He’s been on a roll with his string of feel-good travelogue movies (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Midnight in Paris, To Rome with Love), but Blue Jasmine breaks that cycle. Yes, it’s set in San Francisco (and the Hamptons) but it’s not a love letter to any location, and the story swerves dark. What makes the movie a must-see is Cate Blanchett, who has played Blanche DuBois onstage to rave reviews (wish I’d seen it) but here perfectly embodies Woody’s interpretation of Blanche (mixed in with Ruth Madoff) as a woman whose beauty allows her to deceive her way into powerful men’s hearts because her looks makes her vulnerability and desperation come across as strength. But the cast is full of yummy performances by terrific actors: Sally Hawkins in the Stella role, Bobby Cannavale and Andrew Dice Clay (!) as two versions of Stanley Kowalski, Louis C.K. as Karl Malden, plus Peter Saarsgard, Alec Baldwin, and Michael Stuhlbarg.
Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra headlined Friday night’s show at Lincoln Center Out of Doors in a light drizzle. AFP (as her legion of hardcore fans, including Andy, refer to Amanda Fucking Palmer) did a modified version of the concert she gave last fall at Webster Hall on the launch tour for her album Theater Is Evil – a couple of the major numbers from that release (including the hit-single-that-shoulda-been, “Do It With a Rock Star”); guest appearance by her former cohort from the Dresden Dolls, Brian Viglione; plenty of time spent off the stage moshing around with the folks standing in front of the stage; a couple of plaintive, emotional, inspiring solo numbers on ukulele; the odd cover (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”); encore of “Leeds United.” I confess that I dug the Webster Hall show a bit more, partly because the stomping crowd during the encore made the floorboards bounce, an effect not quite possible in Damrosch Park. For me the gift of the night was getting to hear the opening act, a quirky outfit known as Rosin Coven: a flame-tressed singer fronting a string trio, a vibes player, two horns, and a drummer. Andy called it “mystic Goth jazz,” not a bad summary – smart, ambitious, nutty and intriguing arrangements putting me in mind of Boston’s genius band of the mid-70s Orchestra Luna, with traces of Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks and Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention.