Malone photos by Carol Rosegg
Unsinkable Molly Brown
By Eugene Paul
you’ve wistfully wondered or even yearned for those good old Broadway musicals,
it behooves you to hie yourself down to the surprisingly comforting Abrons
Arts Center where a brisk, production by award winning big name Broadway pros
is pouring it on for a new shot at Meredith Willson’s sixty year old hit, the
adorable The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Yes, that Molly Brown, the real
one, 1867-1932, the survivor of the Titanic, that rich gal who saved a boatload
of survivors. And got hassled for it. Which Book writer Dick Scanlan thought
ought to figure in his new book for the show. And there it is, right up front.
nothing and nobody is more up front than Molly, especially the new Molly
(extraordinary, endearing, delightful Beth Malone). Back in the day, charmer
Tammy Grimes won a Tony playing Molly. Debbie Reynolds won an Oscar
nomination. That was when Molly was a Me Me Me gal, all about her. Now, she’s
got more fire in her belly making her care about others, too. And it takes a
fire in the belly carer to bring her fully to life. Beth Malone in spades.
Sings, dances, acts up a storm, cartwheels, and—relates. She listens. She gives
and takes. She’s that warm glow at the center of the show.
is a blessing because everybody gives that much more, in a show still in these
redeveloping stages, trying scenes, shuffling songs, expanding performances,
discovering gems among the wonderful company, giving them their times to
shine, hustling, hustling, getting closer every day to that uptown move. The
back story on this adventure is worth its own weight in gold. After unsinkable
Molly’s castigation in the Titanic investigations prologue we flash thirty
years back to Leadville.
young Molly Tobin arrives without book learning but full of fun and
persistence, inevitably charming her way into the heart of this rough, mining
town, determined to get herself a husband, a rich husband in order to fulfill
her dream of sashaying big time in her own big house in that big city, Denver.
There’s plenty of men to choose from but the richest one was already hitched.
Aron Damane and Beth Malone
there was that book readin’ mine manager, J.J. Brown.( stolid, wonderful
voiced David Aron Damane). He never knew what hit him. It wasn’t too long
before he was proposing. And to clinch the deal, he had an extra special
surprise: A great big shiny brass bed. And a song to go with it: “My Own Brass
Willson’s songs, adapted by Michael Rafter, are studded throughout the show,
splendidly, briskly played by an enthusiastic orchestra conducted by Joey
Chancey, all Broadway panache in Larry Hochman’s orchestrations. They are meat
and drink for director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall and her giving company
of dancers.. It’s an interesting mix: several are never before heard out of the
trunk Willson songs as well as eight from the original Broadway show including
the one you’ve known for decades and decades “I Ain’t Down Yet”.(That’s the one
Sonny Fox used as his theme for his long running childrens’ show, “Wonderama”.
All the kids knew it). Naturally, Marshall treats all the songs as if they
were top drawer.
has a much broader palette this time around, allowing her really fine company
to portray a much wider picture of Americans in the making, from plain folks to
snobs, in a whole range of accents, colors, sizes. So many of them catch the
light: lovely voiced Whitney Bashor as a new immigrant Julia, the wonderful
trio of miner friends, Erich (Alex Gibson), Vincenzo (Omar Lopez-Cepero) and
Arthur (Paolo Montalban),snooty Louise Sneed-Hill (Paula Leggett Chase),
hilarious Mary Nevin (Coco Smith), fetching Baby Doe (Nikka Graff Lanzarone)
winning Maud( Shina Ann Morris),so many more, even as the show is all Molly’s
and J.J.’s, although Damane is still getting his sea legs. But that’s an easy
J. Banakis makes settings magic on the compact Abrons stage, and Sky Switser
stretches a costume budget to the point of translucency. Lighting designer
Peter Kaczorowski is a vital component adding to the good feelings surrounding
the show. Unsinkable.
Unsinkable Molly Brown. At the Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand Street. Tickets:
$65-$85. 866-811-4111. 2 hr2 30 min. Thru Apr 5.