Two Comedies and a Musical: Noises Off, Clever Little Lies and School of Rock
By Barry Bassis
Michael Frayn’s 1982 backstage farce “Noises Off” is being revived by Roundabout at the American Airlines Theater with an English director, Jeremy Herrin, and an American cast. They are an unusually talented group with excellent comic timing.
The farce starts with a road company rehearsing a sex comedy titled “Nothing On.” The second act takes place a month later and shows the action backstage, where there are all kinds of romances and intrigues among the cast members and director. The tour ends in Act III, when during the performance, pandemonium breaks loose.
The wonderful Andrea Martin is an actress playing a housekeeper, who keeps forgetting what to do with a telephone and a plate of sardines. Campbell Scott is the director trying to whip a second-rate cast up to snuff and occasionally develops interests beyond those of the script. The one who has “nothing on” (but her lingerie) is the scatterbrained actress played by Megan Hilty. Daniel Davis is an eloquent actor in search of alcohol. Jeremy Shamos has trouble with doors and a tendency to develop nosebleeds. The stage hands are played by the graceful Rob McClure and Tracee Chimo.
Though “Noises Off” is frequently hilarious, its perhaps too much of a good thing. As Polonius observed in “Hamlet,” “brevity is the soul of wit.”
School of Rock
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “School of Rock” marks his return to Broadway with witty lyrics by Glenn Slater. This musical version of the popular film finds that Sir Andrew’s mojo is still working.
The plot concerns a slacker named Dewey, who talks his way into teaching a private school class. He manages to turn the kids into rock musicians. Dewey eventually warms the heart of the starchy principal and wins over the protective parents.
The adaptation is handled with taste with the script written by Julian Fellowes, and directed by Laurence Connor, with colorful sets and costumes by Anna Louizos, and choreographed by JoAnn M. Hunter.
The kids are cute and the songs are catchy. My only objection is that the volume is cranked up too high on the rock numbers. Other than that reservation, this fine entertainment is suitable for youngsters.
Alex Brightman is terrific in the Jack Black role and Sierra Boggess is a delight as always, especially when she gets to sing.
Clever Little Lies
I caught one of the last performances at the Westside Theater of this comedy by Joe DiPietro.
The action starts in the locker room of a gym, where a father named Bill and his married son Billy have just finished playing a game of tennis. The son has a new baby but reveals he is having an affair with a young trainer at the gym.
The centerpiece of the play takes place at the suburban home of the parents, Bill and Alice, where they are entertaining Billy and his wife Jane while their baby is heard in the background.
The take-charge Alice, who ultimately has revelations of her own, is delightfully played by Marlo Thomas. Gregg Mullavey is very funny as the bewildered Bill. George Merrick and Kate Wetherhead have their moments to shine as well. Skillfully directed by David Saint, “Clever Little Lies” is similar to a sitcom, but executed to perfection.