Richard Hillman Public Relations

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It was a honor to have Mr. Mastrosimone in the audience for the very first performance of his new play RULES OF DESIRE, ...
02/12/2020
Photo Flash: Playwright William Mastrosimone Attends First Preview of RULES OF DESIRE

It was a honor to have Mr. Mastrosimone in the audience for the very first performance of his new play RULES OF DESIRE, now in previews at The Playroom Theater. Opening night is Monday, February 24th. #rulesofdesire #worldpremiere #offbroadway #williammastrosimone

Last evening's first preview of “RULES OF DESIRE” had a very special guest in attendance – the Award-winning playwright himself, WILLIAM MASTROSIMONE! He met with the cast and director onstage following the performance.

Photo Flash: Ben Cameron Visits FORBIDDEN BROADWAY
02/11/2020
Photo Flash: Ben Cameron Visits FORBIDDEN BROADWAY

Photo Flash: Ben Cameron Visits FORBIDDEN BROADWAY

Ben Cameron stopped by to visit the cast of the hit Off-Broadway production of Gerard Alessandrini's hilarious musical spoof of all things theatre Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation, now in its final week of a return limited engagement at The York Theatre Company at Saint Peter's (entrance on E...

Photo Flash: The Cast of NO STRINGS From J2 Spotlight Musical Theater Company Meets the Press!
02/08/2020
Photo Flash: The Cast of NO STRINGS From J2 Spotlight Musical Theater Company Meets the Press!

Photo Flash: The Cast of NO STRINGS From J2 Spotlight Musical Theater Company Meets the Press!

The newly formed presents the 1962 hit musical, No Strings, with book by Samuel Taylor, and music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers. Performances begin on Thursday, February 27, 2020 at 7:30pm and continue through March 8, 2020 at Theatre Row (410 West 42nd Street - between 9th and Dyer Avenues).

Industry Editor Exclusive: Jerry Herman and the Catalogue He Leaves Behind
02/06/2020
Industry Editor Exclusive: Jerry Herman and the Catalogue He Leaves Behind

Industry Editor Exclusive: Jerry Herman and the Catalogue He Leaves Behind

A producer cannot just license any property s/he wants. Yes, MAME is available for licensing on the Concord Theatricals website, but if I wanted to mount it on Broadway it would be a little more complicated than shelling out cash. Hurdles for non-professional productions are not substantial, but man...

Call Me Adam
02/05/2020

Call Me Adam

On this special episode of #BaringItAllwithCallMeAdam, I am on the red carpet, chatting with the cast & creative team, at the Opening Night party of the new original Off-Broadway Musical "Romeo & Bernadette," produced by Amas Musical Theatre. #RomeoandBernadette runs through 2/16! https://bit.ly/2SiRM7b

Listen/Subscribe:
Broadway Podcast Network: bpn.fm/baringitall
iTunes: https://apple.co/2YBdGIM
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2o5gJaY
iHeartRadio: https://ihr.fm/2EsV0i6
Google Play Music: https://bit.ly/38lm5l5
Pocket Casts: https://pca.st/p7epwcxz

A Celebration with Tom Jones at the York – Times Square Chronicles
02/01/2020
A Celebration with Tom Jones at the York – Times Square Chronicles

A Celebration with Tom Jones at the York – Times Square Chronicles

For one day only, the York Theater continued its important mission of reviving and reimagining the best of our musical theater past with a special concert presentation of Celebration, the 1969 musical by the legendary team of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt. Jones and Schmidt have given us three of ou...

Photo Flash: The Drama League Presents APPEARANCES and THE LOVER as Part of DirectorFest
02/01/2020
Photo Flash: The Drama League Presents APPEARANCES and THE LOVER as Part of DirectorFest

Photo Flash: The Drama League Presents APPEARANCES and THE LOVER as Part of DirectorFest

The Drama League presents DirectorFest, the only festival in the United States dedicated to the art of contemporary stage directing. The festival series that began January 10, 2020 continues with an evening of short plays with The Lover by Harold Pinter, directed by NJ Agwuna, and Appearances by Tin...

Photo Flash: The York Theatre Company Celebrates 50 Years with a CELEBRATION
01/29/2020
Photo Flash: The York Theatre Company Celebrates 50 Years with a CELEBRATION

Photo Flash: The York Theatre Company Celebrates 50 Years with a CELEBRATION

The York Theatre Company, dedicated to the development of new musicals and rediscovery of musical gems from the past, as part of its 50th Anniversary season, presented a special York Legacy Concert of the 1969 Broadway musical Celebration, written by the revered songwriting team of Harvey Schmidt an...

DirectorFest Continues With THE LOVER and APPEARANCES At The New Ohio Theatre
01/27/2020
DirectorFest Continues With THE LOVER and APPEARANCES At The New Ohio Theatre

DirectorFest Continues With THE LOVER and APPEARANCES At The New Ohio Theatre

The Drama League (Artistic Director Gabriel Stelian-Shanks, Executive Director Bevin Ross) presents the 36th annual Directorfest, the only festival in the United States dedicated to the art of contemporary stage directing. Directorfest began January 10 and concludes on February 4, 2020 at various lo...

"Romeo & Bernadette" has everything a great musical needs, terrific music, glorious singing, block-busting ensembles, an...
01/27/2020

"Romeo & Bernadette" has everything a great musical needs, terrific music, glorious singing, block-busting ensembles, and love. Director/Choreographer Justin Ross Cohen and his cast have put together what I can say without hesitation is the best, fully staged NEW musical I’ve seen since I began reviewing. If it doesn’t move on to Broadway, I’m not sure anything can. Every moment is sheer magic. See it now, while you can afford it. It’s truly a work of genius.

JAN EWING reviews ROMEO & BERNADETTE
A Musical Tale of Verona & Brooklyn
Presented by Amas Musical Theatre in association with Eric Krebs
Book & Lyrics by Mark Saltzman
Music adapted from 18th-century Italian melodies
Music Supervision, Arrangements & Orchestrations by Steve Orich
Directed & Choreographed by Justin Ross Cohen
Musical Direction: Aaron Gandy
Set Design: Walt Spangler
Sound Design: One Dream Sound
Costume Design: Fabio Toblini, Joseph Shrope
Production Manager: Mike Schulz
Lighting Design: Ken Billington
Production Stage Manager: Christine Viega
Casting Director: Carol Hanzel
Press Representative: Richard Hillman, Public Relations
Associate Producer: Robert Becker
Photos: Russ Rowland

THE CAST (In order of appearance)
Romeo: Nikita Burshteyn
Bernadette: Anna Kostakis
Sal Penza: Carlos Lopez
Don Del Canto: Michael Marotta
Camille Penza: Judy McLane
Dino Del Canto/Brooklyn Guy: Michael Notardonato
Donna Dubachek/Brooklyn Girl: Ari Raskin
Usher, Bellhop, Enzo Aliria, Father Keneely, Arden, Viola, Roz: Troy Valjean Rucker
Tito Titone: Zach Schanne
Lips: Viet Vo

ORCHESTRA
Musie Director/Keyboard 1: Aaron Gandy
Associate Music Director/Keyboard 2: Jason Loffredo
Woodwinds: Simon Hutchins
Drums: Jon Berger

THE PLOT
“Romeo—yes, THAT Romeo—finds himself in 1960s Brooklyn, chasing a girl he believes is his beloved Juliet. But no, it's Bernadette, the beautiful, foul-mouthed daughter of a crime family in this wild spoof of Shakespeare’s timeless tale.” That succinct, clear statement, taken from the company’s press release, sums up the plot of this musical so well that I don’t think I can improve upon it. Besides, if I use it, I’ll have more room to write about the work itself, which is exactly what I want to do.

BACKGROUND
One thing about reviewing theater in New York City is the incredibly high standard we see in practically every performance. Producing a play here is impossibly expensive. Fully 80% of the productions that reach Broadway lose money, and it’s only the exceptional Off-Broadway offering that can even pay its actors. A number of years ago, I produced a play Off-Off-Broadway myself. As it happened, our entire budget (outside theater rent) was consumed by PARKING. What this means is that substandard work seldom gets on a stage. When it does, it disappears very quickly.

So, there’s something good to say about practically everything, even if a play or production itself is bad. Given the difficulty and expense of getting anything onstage, I feel it’s my responsibility to mention those things that work even when there are things that don’t, hoping that companies will be encouraged to make improvements as they move down the road. As a result, I’m sometimes accused of being too nice. I don’t want that to happen here, because this time, I have to praise everything. What I wrote below makes me sound like the show’s press agent, but it can’t be helped.

THE PLAY
Mark Saltzman’s “Romeo & Bernadette” is absolutely thrilling, with a brilliant concept and script, truly stunning music, and a performance that literally made the hearts of the audience sing. The book is first rate. Getting Romeo to 1960s Brooklyn is worked out logically, the suspension of disbelief made almost effortless. The dialogue is consistently hysterical from beginning to end, with remarkably apt lyrics; clever, witty, and adapted to the music with extraordinary intelligence and skill.

THE MUSIC
About the music, I could write an essay. Everything in this “almost” modern love story (for many of us, 1960 is NOT so long ago) is drawn from the 18th-century Italian Baroque. The score is breathtaking, with romantic waltzes and unforgettable love songs. Musical Supervisor, Steve Orich, has done an incredible job with the vocal arrangements and orchestrations, masterfully adapting all those lovely melodies and spirited dances into the pop music and theater styles of the 1960s. His keyboard work, exquisitely realized by Musical Director Aaron Gandy and his Associate Jason Loffredo, are positively rhapsodic, with the single woodwind player, Simon Hutchins, seeming to draw flutes, clarinets, and bassoons out of thin air. Add to that Jon Berger’s well timed percussion (NOT the same as banging a drum) and you have a musical ensemble that can hold it’s own anytime, anywhere.

Mr. Orich’s vocal arrangements are equally fine. Duets, trios, quartets, and sextets, with fine voices singing in harmony, while Director/Choreographer Justin Ross Cohen uses chachas, foxtrots, and exhilarating theater choreography to establish an ambiance of excitement and timeless beauty.

THE PRODUCTION
Walt Spangler’s set is simple and adaptable. It consists of a series of open frames and white spaces which change shape to move smoothly, without pause, from scene to scene. Ken Billington’s excellent lighting makes excellent use of color and shade to alter the set and establish the mood, while Fabio Toblinim and Joseph Shrope created costumes that are not only beautiful and appropriate (Romeo’s leather codpiece could not be more Italian) but can also be changed very quickly. See below for more on that.

THE PERFORMANCE
I got the impression that everyone in the audience fell in love with Romeo. Nikita Burshteyn is a newcomer to New York City, and we’re lucky to have him. He’s a fine, comic actor; young and good looking, with a lovely trained tenor. When he sang to Bernadette of the “angels in your voice” in the haunting “O, for a Song,” a good part of the audience wept. How often does that happen in cynical New York City? As Bernadette, Anna Kostakis was as much in love with Romeo as we were. She moved effortlessly from spoiled mob daughter to smitten baroque heroine. Her rendition of “One Tender Word,” something she wished she could get from her mob-wantabe fianceé, Tito, was warm and sympathetic.

Michael Notardonato, who opens the show as Brooklyn Guy, with the extraordinarily funny “Die, Already” and the hilarious expository chorus number “There’s More,” morphs into Dino, mob-kid and Romeo’s Bensonhurst sidekick, with engaging charm. His accent is perfect, his dialogue slick and cleverly delivered, his singing and dancing, top-notch; a joy to watch every time he comes onstage. As Donna Dubachek, Ari Raskin is a stitch, milking every line for its humor. She more than holds her own as the only other young woman in the show.

As Bernadette’s mother, Camille, Judy McLane is every inch a star when she sings “Hail the Contessa.” Her soaring high notes and magnetic stage presence are fully in keeping with her remarkable Broadway credits. Troy Valjean Rucker, as Usher, Bellhop, Enzo Aliria, Father Keneely, Arden, Viola, and Roz, moves flawlessly through all seven roles with enormous skill. He’s a talented actor, floating between genders without a pause. He changes costumes so quickly, and so many times that I lost count (kudos to the costume designers mentioned above). He has a fine, well-trained baritone voice, singing opera, and the first Italian iteration of the lovely “Caro, Mio Ben” (Dearest, my Beloved) before Mr. Orich turns it into a smashing wedding ensemble later in the show.

As Tito Titone, Bernadette’s fianceé (until she meets Romeo, anyway), Zach Schanne is determined to become a “made man.” His reaction when Romeo appears is perfectly in keeping with a murderous punk. He’s a hoot when Bernadette insists he learn to chacha, and surprisingly sympathetic when he sings “To Be Tito Titone,” after finally giving up. Last, but by no means least, we have Carlos Lopez, Michael Marotta, and Viet Vo, as confused mob-boss fathers Sal Penza, Don Del Canto, and the very funny Lips, a mob-man of all works. Everyone in the cast was polished and professional, and everyone had his or her moment.

CONCLUSION
Romeo & Bernadette has everything a great musical needs, terrific music, glorious singing, blockbusting ensembles, and love. Director/Choreographer Justin Ross Cohen and his cast have put together what I can say without hesitation is the best, fully staged NEW musical I’ve seen since I began reviewing. If it doesn’t move on to Broadway, I’m not sure anything can. Every moment is shear magic. See it now, while you can afford it. It’s truly a work of genius.
HAPPY FACE PLUS

EVA HEINEMANN ADDS: There isn't much I can add to this comprehensive review except to say that I absolutely loved this as much as Jan Ewing.

I was one of the people crying over O for a song. Who knew Italian Baroque music was so lovely. I can't wait to buy the album.

To illustrate how much I love this show that today at a matinee I told the women next to me who were thinking of seeing Lucy Barton to forget about it and go see Romeo and Bernadette instead.

I only wish all the people involved in this show could do every show in the future so I will always be assured of a great time.

Forsooth you will have a bellisima time!
MAJOR HAPPY FACE

PERFORMANCE INFORMATION
January 14th – February 16th, 2020 (click below for tickets & dates)
Mezzanine Theatre
A.R.T./New York Theatres
502 West 53rd Street, NYC
(866) 811-4111
www.amasmusical.org
www.amasmusical.org/romeo-bernadette (Tickets)

PHOTOS
#1: (L–R) Judy McLane, Carlos Lopez, Michael Notardonato, Ari Raskin, Anna Kostakis,
Nikita Burshteyn, Zach Schanne & Viet Vo
#2: Nikita Burshsteyn & Michael Notardonato
#3: Anna Kostakis & Nikita Burshteyn
#4: Judy McLane & Troy Valjean Rucker
#5: Judy McLane & Anna Kostakis
#6: Zach Schanne & Carlos Lopez
#7: Michael Notardonato & Michael Marotta

Photo Flash: First Look at THE SPORTING LIFE OF ICARUS JONES at THE DROWNING GIRLS at DirectorFest
01/25/2020
Photo Flash: First Look at THE SPORTING LIFE OF ICARUS JONES at THE DROWNING GIRLS at DirectorFest

Photo Flash: First Look at THE SPORTING LIFE OF ICARUS JONES at THE DROWNING GIRLS at DirectorFest

The Drama League presents DirectorFest, the only festival in the United States dedicated to the art of contemporary stage directing. The festival series that began January 10, 2020 continues with an evening of short plays probing the complexity of relationships with The Sporting Life of Icarus Jones...

Photo Flash: Meet the Casts of The Drama League's DirectorFest 2020 Productions of THE LOVER and APPEARANCES
01/22/2020
Photo Flash: Meet the Casts of The Drama League's DirectorFest 2020 Productions of THE LOVER and APPEARANCES

Photo Flash: Meet the Casts of The Drama League's DirectorFest 2020 Productions of THE LOVER and APPEARANCES

The Drama League presents DirectorFest, the only festival in the United States dedicated to the art of contemporary stage directing. The festival series that began January 10, 2020 continues with an with The Lover by Marcus Gardley, by Harold Pinter, directed by NJ Agwuna, and Appearances by Tina Ho...

Fred Applegate, Samantha Bruce and More Will Star in York Theatre Company Concert of CELEBRATION
01/21/2020
Fred Applegate, Samantha Bruce and More Will Star in York Theatre Company Concert of CELEBRATION

Fred Applegate, Samantha Bruce and More Will Star in York Theatre Company Concert of CELEBRATION

The York Theatre Company (James Morgan, Producing Artistic Director; Evans Haile, Executive Director), dedicated to the development of new musicals and rediscovery of musical gems from the past, as part of its 50th Anniversary season, has announced the cast for the York Legacy Concerts of the 1969 B...

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