Fans of this series of lovingly recreated revivals know its strengths: original scores brought to life again with a full live orchestra, wonderfully talented singers and dancers, fine choreography and, of course, great American musicals of the past. The shows are mounted in the 1923 Moorish landmark City Center, the Mecca Temple which belonged to the Shriners until the 1929 crash. Now owned by New York City, we get to view the gorgeous tiles outside
and the recently restored interior “polychromed tile work, murals, and terra cotta tiled rooftop dome.” (wikipedia.org)
Today, its 2,750 seat main house plays host to opera, ballet, theater and the Encores! series.
As these are nominally staged readings with scripts, the musicians sit on stage in the rear and the sound is glorious–real acoustical instruments with a real orchestral sound. Downstage is where all the action takes place and this means very simple or even suggested sets, great dancers on loan from the ballet and completely staged production numbers. You can keep your flying sets, deafening electronics and vanishing orchestras; for many of us, this is just fine.
Last night’s show was Little Me, a 1962 musical by Sy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh, with a script by Neil Simon, a book adapted by Patrick Dennis and starring Tony winners Christian Borle and Judy Kaye and assorted first rate performers. This show, conceived as a vehicle for Sid Caesar, worked well, with the great production values and talent we have come to expect from Encores!
As you will note, nary a script in sight.
The bad news is that these shows are presented for only one four-day weekend each; last night was Little Me’s opening and judging by the enthusiastic and plentiful crowd, seats may be hard to get for the next three performances.
However, if you can possibly get tickets for one of the upcoming productions of Most Happy Fella and Irma La Douce, you will be glad you did. Tickets run from $30 on up and you might want to buy the series (as we did) to ensure that you get seats for one of New York’s best-loved theatrical traditions.
If you get to West 55th Street a little early, you can make a stop at the great candymaker, Myzel’s. Kamila Myzel not only makes her own chocolate-covered marshmallows (milk and dark)
but also carries more than 100 kinds of licorice–for those who love it, its own kind of Mecca.
I will write again upon my return from some much-needed sun; see you then. SB