Helene Yorke and Brandon Uranowitz in the
Encores! staging of Grand Hotel at City Center, New York.
Photo: Joan Marcus
By Edward Medina
a deeply engrossing book by Luther Davis and the beautiful music and lyrics by
Robert Wright and George Forrest, the legend that is Grand Hotel, The
Musical has reappeared once more to grace the New York City Center stage in all its glory. Reincarnation is the hallmark of this storied blockbuster.
It was first a novel by Vicki Baum in 1929, it then became a star studded
legendary MGM film in 1932, its first sadly unsuccessful attempt at a Los
Angeles theatrical production followed in 1958, but it wasn’t until Tommy Tune
breathed life into this in-depth multi-character story for a Broadway run in
1989 did Grand Hotel come to glittering life.
setting is Berlin and the year is 1928. The roaring twenties are still in vogue
and the world has yet to feel the sting of the Great Depression. On this
particular weekend, a particular set of characters make their way through the
lobby of the Grand Hotel. As they each check in they have no idea that their
lives will be forever intertwined.
stories are told to us by the hotel’s unofficial resident doctor Colonel
Otternschlag. He’s seen it all because even though he always decides to check
out he invariably decides to stay for one more day. In this role the very
talented William Ryall, a member of not only the original Broadway production
but various incarnations since, serves as a more than fitting tour guide. An
aging and failing ballerina Elizaveta Grushinskaya, danced beautifully by
acclaimed ballerina Irina Dvorovenko, arrives for yet another tiring tour.
There’s perpetual unpaid guest Baron Felix von Gaigern who’s more of a broke
and down on his luck thief played with romance and flair by James Snyder.
voices and talents of the principle cast are all equally powerful but it’s the
fatally ill bookkeeper Otto Kringelein, who is seeking a few last moments of
living a life of grandeur, and the young typist Flaemmchen, who fantasizes
about escape and becoming an American film star, that steal the show here. The
performances of Brandon Uranowitz and Helene Yorke in those roles are both
funny and touching and can’t help but bring a tear to the eye as they slowly
find each other.
Wright and Forrest songbook, made possible by a show saving assist with
additional music and lyrics from theatre icon Maury Yeston, is twenty-four
numbers long providing several opportunities for the company to exhibit their
considerable skills. The tap dancing duo of James T. Lane and Daniel Yearwood
in “Maybe My Baby” are absolutely delightful. “Girl in The Mirror” lets Helene
Yorke’s charms shine. Brandon Uranowitz and James Snyder, along with the
aforementioned Lane and Yearwood accompanied by the ensemble, tear things up
with the raucous antics of “We’ll Take a Glass Together”.
Irina Dvorovenko and James Snyder (Photo credit: Joan
The love ballad “Love
Can’t Happen” once again highlights Snyder, this time with leading lady Irina
Dvorovenko, provides a sincere tug at the heartstrings. And the beautify staged
“Bolero” tango, directed and danced by Junior Cervila and Guadalupe Garcia
throughout the production, is a dark and delicious treat.
Hotel is a luxurious
and luscious cavalcade of theatrical wonders. The moment Ken Billington’s deep,
rich lightening hits Allen Moyer’s gorgeous set you instantly know you're in
for a treat. Moyer pays homage to this show’s history by once again putting the
supremely gifted orchestra, led by Rob Berman, on stage and above the
performers, he also retained two chandeliers which marked the original 1989
set, and while there was no revolving door for the characters to sashay
through, a large gold framed mirror placed upstage on the upper tier gave an
even better way for them to all seemingly emerge. Inhabiting this world of color
and light are the equally lush costumes of designer Linda Cho. Her work
accentuates and solidifies all the surrounding splendor.
same remembrances can be said of Josh Rhodes’ masterful direction and equally
powerful choreography. Rhodes gives a nod to original director Tommy Tune’s
gold painted ballroom chairs that helped to enrich the minimalist world of its
predecessor. Rhodes also enlists the aide of an almost ever-present chorus to
not only sing and dance their hearts out but to also build an entire world with
the use of those chairs and in some cases even their own bodies.
production of Grand Hotel is not a perfect show. There are a few things
that don't gel, but they're mere quibbles. Every Encore! show could use a bit
more time to achieve true perfection. But the tight rehearsal schedule and
immediate on demand delivery provides an electric energy that makes the best
productions in their twenty-five seasons leave a lasting impression. In this
case Grand Hotel, The Musical shines and stands apart as a true
legendary vehicle should.
a mystery that comes with an exceptionally exquisite revival. A kind of ghostly
reminiscence that lingers from the magic that brought the original production
to life. This new Grand Hotel is haunted in that sublime way. As the
character's first appear, for as long as they stay, and until they all check
out you feel their alchemical energy pulse through you. You feel rewarded to
have witnessed them again, even if it's just briefly, and you truly wish they
could stay, for just one more day.
New York City Center
131 West 55th St,
New York, NY
Mar 21 – 25, 2018