"Come begin in old Berlin,
you're in the grand hotel"
The Colony Theater has come along way from it's humble beginnings to it's current digs in Burbank and the Musical on the boards right now, Grand Hotel, is befitting the company's increased stature. The musical had a troubled start on Broadway in the 1989 season with an uneven show that took the creative imagination of Tommy Tune and additional music and lyrics by Maury Yeaston to have success.
The Colony would have to pull in someone who really had a creative spark to pull the piece off and they did so with Peter Schneider. The Los Angeles times recently ran a terrific piece on the storied history of Grand Hotel's gifted director and his notes in the program outline a post 9/11 sensitivity to art, passion and seizing the day that he feels is embodied in the selected work. His dedication over the 18 months he put in on the show is evident; the stage at The Colony seems to soar with its shimmering set, scenes and plot lines are trimmed from the show itself, and we are lovingly delivered a shinning streamlined 90 minutes from beginning to end.
Grand Hotel is set in the heady days of 1928 anything goes Berlin - The scene is one of the finest hotels in the world which serves as a microcosm for life and its players. The talented Michael McCarty as The Doctor serves as a wise narrator of sorts introducing us to the opulence and desperation inside the environs. We then have a parade of guests at the outset and introductions of a Penniless but dashing baron (Robert J. Townsend), a wide eyed would be starlet typist (Beth Malone), an aging businessman tottering on an ethical precipice (Dink O'Neal), and a past prime ballerina who has had the fire and Ice of her career washed away by time (Cynthia
All are here at the hotel living lives of expectation of what could be and never what is. Into the mix walks a man living only for the day, a dying book keeper at last wanting to live in the moment and experience the joy's of life. Jason Graae as Otto Kringelein is the hit of the show -- he is eminently
watchable; evoking pathos and joy in the same moments with a voice as beautiful as his performance. Townsend follows on the heels of Graae as an anchor for the show's talent; his soaring tenor voice combines with a great acting flair that is perfect for the part of the baron. He has a fun chemistry with our starlet secretary Flaemmchen and Malone brings a knockout voice and dance routine of her own to the mix, although some of her characterization were lacking.
Cynthia Beckert as the past prime ballerina, Grushinskaya looks the part but does not measure up artistically when compared with the talent level in the show. The need to flesh out the character is evident, although to her credit, the part is perhaps the most confining of the leads and she makes the most of what is given her. Dink O'neil as General Director Preysing could have given us more as well; his part is ripe with inner conflict to be exploited.
The rest of the ensemble is flat out fantastic. Cate Caplin and Gary Franco as the reflections of the Grand Hotel literally bring the show to a stop with the kind of heart in your mouth edge of your seat dancing that could have an entire evening built around it alone. Caplin is the shows choreographer as well; the company's moves dazzle and delight. Mike Irazarry and Chris Payne Dupre deliver top Broadway caliber performances as Jimmy #1 and #2, respectively. They bring a level of sizzle and magic to the show that we wanted to feel and see more of.
Dana Reynolds as Grushinskaya's longing Raffaela puts her strong voice to it's best use and is steady in character throughout. Larry Lederman as the Chauffeur, is classic comic relief as the "heavy in waiting". Samuel B. Kivi does a great job as the prim and proper Rohna and Michael Parillo is spot-on as the fey Victor Witt. Natalia Lind, Dore
Marott, Rachel Strutt Virgina Weber and Bob Wood pull out all the stops vocally and character wise to make the hotel seem full of life and provide a strong ensemble.
A performance of special note is turned in by Alex Miller as Erik
Litnauer. His voice is by far the best in the show and he is an obvious star talent.
In the end, Schneider and musical director Michael Reno have delivered up a song and dance Hit. To put icing on the cake the fantastic set by David Potts and precision lighting design by Don Guy brings us full into a world those artists sought to create, and costumes by Garry D. Lennon ( Of "Dinah Was" fame) round out what serves as a terrific escapist night of theater and another leap forward for The Colony.
- Kevin Kindlin
The Colony Theatre Website
Grand Hotel, The Musical
Book by Luther Davis
Music and Lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest
Based on Vicki Baum's Grand Hotel
The Colony Theatre Company
In Residence at Burbank Center Stage
555 North Third Street
Burbank, California 91502
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