Theatre, Daily Racing Form, 1959-05-01


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W dA. 5 LBl* THEATRE fiy w*™y Boiton NEW YORK, April 30.— Because plays both on and off Broadway have been tumbling in like acrobats at a Ringling audition, I have not made the Grand Tour in a long time and if pressed for a candid statement I would say that I do not know any one who has cared much. Or at all. But it was raining Monday night, the kind of night pleading for self-indulgence. Self-indulgence for some on such a night is a living room with a fireplace going, low lights and some hi-fi. For others it is a long leisurely dinner in a favored restaurant, followed by the consequent euphoria. For me, who never had much sense, it is trudging around in the rain from one theatre to another to see what is happening. First stop, the Helen Hayes to watch Chloris Leachman in her job of taking over the daughters role in "A Touch of the Poet." The backstage explosions seem to have stopped now, Miss Leachman has had a few performances in public to get hold of herself and it is fair to evaluate her performance. It is a good performance. Sound, intelligent, poised and not at all a carbon of the Kim Stanley performance. Miss Leachman has her own way of doing things and it is a sensible way. Eric Port-man still fulminates incomprehensibly at times and Miss Hayes flits between both with her quiet, self-assured command of things. The play has not been harmed a whit by engaging Miss Leachman. AAA Next, over to the Ethel Barrymore Theatre to watch 10 minutes of "A Raisin in the Sun," and it occurs to me that so much has been written about the truth and universality of the play and its heart-breaking moments that no one has thought to give Sidney Poitier enough credit for its comic moments. Because he has so long and so often played serious and intent roles of which, Heaven knows, this is mainly one, no note is made of at least one moment in which he is all clown and funny. Underlying that moment there is, of course, wry bitterness, but on the surface it is a comic performance and well done. It is the scene in which he suddenly leaps to a table top, takes a leaders pose and mocks the racists who assume a pious, dedicated look and address ignited Africa. It is the scene which begins: "My black bro-o-o-thers!" Down into 45th Street the Imperial to stand there wasnt a seat empty in the house and watch the bullwhip ballet in "Destry Rides Again." It is a wonderfully imaginative idea, with three gun-slingers contemptuously taking over a celebrant hoe-down by walking in and beginning to snap their long whips at the girls ankles and the mens midriffs. As the dancers, in fright, back away and make a huge semicircle the three outlaws do a modern ballet with the whips that is testament both to their skills and Michael Kidds daring. The audience explodes into applause before the number is ended. Then a few more minutes to watch Andy Griffith and Dolores Gray in a duo scene of great charm. Through Shubert Alley to 44th and 10, minutes with the inexhaustible, still sell- j ing-out and still affectionately bucolic I "The Music Man." The company is in the 1 gymnasium scene and it still has the I special flavor of small-town folk gathering [ to rehearse for a pageant and making , fools of themselves but loving it. It is a j scene Meredith Wilson must have loved I writing music for, words for and it obvi- j ously was fetched right out of memories I ! i of his boyhood in AAA Iowa. I Back up to 46th Street to watch Gwen j Verdon for a quarter of an hour in "Redhead," doing the scene where she knows she is fairly bewildering company among the raffish tarts and ruffians of the wrong side of London but who is, nonetheless, enjoying every wonderful, raucous minute of it. Miss Verdon pours on magic and allure and her presence in the company is always vivid and colorful. Without her, in all i truth, there wouldnt be too much of a show there. But she illuminates it, leads it, gives it glamor and excitement. A • A A Up to the Alvin to watch a few minutes of "First Impressions" and my second impression is the same as my first: there is a pleasant, beautifully set and costumed show which has about as much to do with Jane Austen as I have to do with the i Atomic Energy Commission. They try to i tell me that Hermione Gingold was cruelly criticized for her characterization of the mother in the show and that in her book Miss Austen described exactly that kind of voracious person. Nonsense. Miss Austen did nothing of the sort. j

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