A Catered Affair

Based on the 1956 Bette Davis film The Catered Affair, A Catered Affair is a 2008 Broadway musical collaboration between book writer Harvey Fierstein and composer/lyricist John Bucchino and director John Doyle.

The story follows a young couple, Jane and Ralph, who are planning to be married in less than a week.  The couple want a quick and small ceremony, but Jane’s mother, Aggie, has different plans, wanting to give Jane a large “catered affair” after a dinner with the groom’s parents.  To complicate matters more the bride’s father, Tom, needs money in order to buy out a share of his taxi company from a partner.  That, mixed with the story of Winston, the “bachelor uncle” who is in a snit for not being originally invited to the wedding, and Aggie and Tom’s son who has just died in the Korean War, serve as the basis for the musical.

The show opened on Broadway on April 17, 2008 and closed on July 27, 2008 after only 116 performances.  An unfortunate flop, and one that I really don’t understand.  The show is more of an intimate piece, not exactly a big Broadway show.  It has a lot of heart, though, that shows not only in the music, lyrics, and book but also within the look of the entire Broadway show.

It also helped that the Broadway production hired a cast of more than competent actors.  Faith Prince as Aggie is beyond words playing the wife that has watched life pass her by, and Tom Wopat is equally good playing husband Tom opposite her.  Then, of course, there’s Harvey Fierstein as Winston, and you can’t get much better than Harvey Fierstein in a show.  Leslie Kritzer and Matt Cavenaugh round out the main cast as the two love birds and they each offer their own charming touches to the roles.  With that cast alone, it’s a shame that the original production didn’t stay longer.

Fortunately for everyone,  a cast recording was released, and although I’m a fan that wishes the entire production was recorded, filmed live, made into a big-budget movie (so that I could then scathe that they hired Hollywood actors instead of Broadway), and become the biggest thing to hit the scene since pudding, the cast recording preserves the show nicely.  Highlights include the opening number, “Partners”, Harvey Fierstein’s fiery  “Immediate Family”, Leslie Kritzer’s delightful “One White Dress”, and two passionate numbers for Faith Prince: “Our Only Daughter” and “Vision”.

So that’s that.  Seriously, if you’re a Broadway lover and don’t own this cast recording, go out and get it now.  Yeah, that’s an order.  Do it.

Oliver Richman-Defying Gravity

Nine year old Oliver Richman has become an overnight sensation to anyone that knows or cares about anything Broadway (about seven people). His performance of the song “Defying Gravity” from the musical Wicked has left more people spellbound than the top ticket price for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. So what’s so special about him?

I was introduced to Oliver when creepy pictures of him kept popping up on the ad-bar for Facebook. These I chose to ignore. When he began making appearances on the news sections of many Broadway websites, I still ignored him. It was not until he began popping up on message boards and people began ripping on him that I decided to check out his video.

It needs to be said that obviously Mr. Richman is talented. He could be out in the world, tipping over old ladies and drinking glue like a normal nine year old, but no. Oliver chose* to show the world his gift of a magical voice, and for that I applaud him. Some other people might not, so here’s hoping that he attends a performing arts school.

That’s all fine and dandy, but what really needs to be discussed is this music video. How has thing won no awards? I was in tears when the old woman** at the beginning of the video expressed her sentiments to the kid. Put this woman on Broadway and give her a Tony***.

Then the singing began. For those of you that are familiar with the song probably know that it is typically sung by a girl with a bad complexion and an unnatural ability to fly****. In this video, none of that happens. Instead, Oliver Richman has to suffer the trials and tribulations of a sunny day on some beach. As he belts through the song, we see him strike the infamous Titanic Jack and Rose pose with someone that can only be considered his sister. Awkward.

But the fun does not end there! Oliver proceeds to move onto many more locations, while clad in a red shirt and sunglasses.  We see him running down a row of miniature columns, looking something like if John Doyle had tried to direct Gladiator*****. The scenes continue as Oliver can be seen twisting, turning, and having a seizure whilst running down a boardwalk, some more beach, and a rather odd looking hill.

The highlight of the entire video occurs right on that rather odd looking hill. Oliver proceeds to tell all of Oz that “No wizard that there is or was is ever gonna bring me down!!!” complete with epic riffs. This is fine when watching Wicked. It’s a bit odd when a nine year old screams it at the hills of California.

All in all, the video is amazing. Watch it, learn it, live it, love it.


*Or at least his mother did.

**Mother? Grandmother? Sister with an aging defect?

*** I’ll settle for a Drama Desk Award.