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They Promised Her the Moon

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When they go low, we go high,” are words that could have easily been spoken by Jerrie Cobb (Amanda Quaid) in Laurel Ollstein’s new play They Promised her The Moon.  The play tells the relatively unknown story of mid- Western Cobb, a girl with a speech defect and a critical mother, but a dream that proved stronger than her limitations.

Cobb’s dad (John Leonard Thompson) was a pilot and after flying with him at age ten, Cobb was hooked. With his encouragement, she became pro and broke records in speed, distance and absolute altitude. Still, with so much discrimination against women pilots, she struggled to find work. When famed pilot Jackie Cochran, (Andrus Nichols), considered top female aviator in the world, created the Mercury 13 program to train female astronauts, Cobb’s luck changed. She out tested everyone including her male colleagues in the Mercury 7 program, but was not permitted to go up because women were not considered The Right Stuff.  John Glenn testified against hiring women for the space program and so Russia got there first with a lesser qualified Valentina Tereshkova.

This story of strength and resilience is beautifully told in this insightful and humorous play. Cobb had to compete not only against men but her own gender; Cochran, at fifty-five was too old to be an astronaut and consciously worked against Cobb’s success. She is brittle and tough, but we understand what she had to fight against, too.

The performances are all top notch, some playing several characters.  John Leonard Thompson as Cobb’s pilot father and Congressman is a quiet sensitive man and wholly believable as a father who can see a future in his daughter’s eyes.  Edmund Lewis, Polly Mckie and John Russell are all terrific with a wide range.

Amanda Quaid, our pilot hero, who discovers romantic love but chucks it for the skies, is so good at bringing an awkward young woman into existence in front of our eyes. When her career takes the obvious fall it must from not being permitted to become an astronaut, she doesn’t give up…she just moves…to the Amazon where she works with tribes and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1981.

Ms. Ollstein, an original member of Actors’ Gang in LA, has a great ear for real talk and imbues the story with sensitivity and humor.

As directed by Producing and Artistic Director of the Miranda Company, Valentina Fratti brings this too little known story beautifully to life. Graham Kindred’s set and lighting design is simply perfect.

Hopefully, this wonderful show, having run its course at St. Clement’s will soon find a new home. It deserves it.

Written by nancykoan

June 2, 2017 at 8:52 pm

Aaron Weinstein makes Blue Monday Red Hot

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aaron Pangea was a supercontinent that existed during the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras. It was assembled from bits approximately 300 million years ago, and it began to break apart about 175 million years ago. Now a piece.has landed in Manhattan and though not a new kid to the hood, a relative new idea to New York nightlife

Pangea is becoming the speakeasy of yesteryears today…where great food, meets booze meets amazing talent. They have a cabaret evenings almost every night with luminaries the likes of Eric Comstock, Julie Halston and Mad Jenny and her Society Band.

The tables are intimate, the lighting flattering and the waitstaff incredibly sensitive to the performers, quietly delivering that second bottle of champagne with hardly a sound.

Last night I was privileged to once again see the Wunderkind of Strings Aaron Weinstein .accompanied by the brilliant Tedd Firth on piano. I’ve been watching Mr. Weinstein for years and his drop in your lap dry humor only gets drier…he’s a cross between Howdy Doody and Woody Allen, delivering witty and silly reflections about life, art and of course, music. His patter is only second to his virtuosity. The guy really swings on the fiddle, sneaking his way up to jazz as he dances his way through the American Songbook. He took a sit down break to play the mandolin which he insists he ‘bought at a sale at Whole Foods!’

Tedd Firth plays along beautifully and as everyone in the cabaret world knows, he is tops. When he provides as Mr. Weinstein calls it the percussion, every song is perfectly nuanced. On “I Want to Be Happy”, I actually found my feet and arms moving in glee.  The quieter honoring of Mother Rose’s songs from Gypsy teared me up and I don’t think I was alone. That’s why Pangea’s great cocktails are so helpful.

An added thrill was hearing Michael Musto do a number. I knew he was the great gossip guy but had no idea his pipes were so good. And Vivian Reed, a jazz powerhouse, honored the stage with a song. She’s a master.

I will keep following Mr. Weinstein to see where his humor and good taste next land. And Pangea, thanks for holding on through the downtown shifts. Pangea proves that life is so much more than loud drinking joints and tapas. This piece of land is separate for a reason.

Written by nancykoan

March 29, 2016 at 5:15 pm

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A Wall Worth Listening to, Brit Floyd is Back

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On the heels of its hugely successful 146 concert date tour around the globe in 2015, Brit Floyd, who is considered to be the world’s greatest Pink Floyd Show, will be here, to share a journey of fifty years of Pink Floyd. They promise to play from the huge catalogue of music, performing favorites from The Dark Side of the MoonWish You Were HereAnimalsThe Wall and The Division Bell. This year they are performing their rendition of Echoes, in its entirety, from the landmark album Meddle.

I was fortunate to be in the audience at the Beacon Theater last year. As our universe opens up in all directions, The Wall symbol seems even more instructive as we contemplate Donald Trump’s plans for US borders. Then there is the subject of the Berlin Wall in the film Bridge of Spies and the highly politicized walls of old Jerusalem. With this in mind, I spoke to musical director, lead vocalist and guitarist Damian Darlington about their upcoming tour.


—-7_31_15_BritFloyd_Citone_Kabik_1-4277_Paul Citone

N: I loved the show last year… was blown away. What can we expect in 2016?

Damian: It’s a continuation of last year’s theme, celebrating fifty years of Pink Floyd. We’ll play a representative set list of their career, bringing in new songs and songs not done in a while, like Echo, the whole side of the original metal album.

We’re playing four songs never done before. We really want people to have the chance to experience the music live.

N: Where have you felt the greatest reception?

Damian: USA is top on the list…then there’s Eastern Europe, Slovenia, Belarus, Bulgaria… and Lebanon.  Five thousand people must demonstrate its universal appeal.

N: What makes it so universal?

Damian: Well, the quality of the songs, they’re timeless; they don’t age. The things being explored in the lyrics are truly timeless; the music is beautiful. What’s being said…like in The Dark Side of the Moon…the themes are life and death and madness. It’s not overtly political… they make general comments on life.

At this point, I brought up of Roger Waters, lyricist and co-founder of Pink Floyd. He has been political in a few arenas like UK hunting and global change and more recently making waves by backing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (DBS) movement against Israel. He has been called anti-Semitic by the director of the Anti-Defamation League and criticized Bon Jovi for performing in Israel. He insists that he is against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and not anti-Semitic.

N: So what about Roger Waters… will your show deal with his politics?

Damian: Roger Waters lost his father in the war and deals with his anti-war sentiments in The Wall and Final Cut. But that’s his own feeling of having lost a father to war. We’re about the music. I don’t think it affects our concert. I’ve had no personal experience with that.

N: One of most exciting parts of your show last year was the visuals. The art and light show were amazing…what’s happening this year?

Damian: Artist Bryan Kolupski will be on tour with us again.  Very lucky.

Bryan Kolupski, an American artist, creates the phenomenal animation and videos for the backdrop screen.

N: How do you keep your energy up …you really give the audience your all… an amazing output of musical skill, power and stagecraft.

Damian: Well, we’re toughened living on the road. And lucky for us, it’s still fun. And the music is great.

Brit Floyd will be at the Beacon Theatre on April 8 in New York City. See the sites for other dates around the country and Canada.

Written by nancykoan

March 2, 2016 at 5:23 pm

Theater for every taste, Yiddish /Wongo-ish..It’s all Fun

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Talk about diversity. New York is certainly the land of plenty. Just this week alone, I spent time in an Irish/Yiddish world and the next day was transported by intergalactic forces to the Planet Wongo. All this for a subway token.

The Bespoke Overcoat

The Bespoke Overcoat

Wolf Mankowitz, British/Jewish polyglot is being represented by New Yiddish Rep at the Cell Theatre on West 23rd Street. In two one-act plays “2 by Wolf,” we get a sampling from the prolific pen of Mankowitz. “The Irish Hebrew Lesson” perhaps the only tri-lingual play of its kind written in English, Irish and Yiddish, is followed by “The Bespoke Overcoat,” performed in a Yiddish. (Supertitles are used in the latter play.) The director is Romanian Moshe Yassur, who has had a long career as actor/director here and in Israel.
The Irish Hebrew Lesson pits a religious Jew with a penchant for languages next to a young Irish rebel, hoping to rid Ireland of the British as St. did with the snakes. The rebel is too young to realize the fragility of life and so the older man takes the opportunity to protect the boy and himself by teaching him a little Hebrew and a little philosophy. That the rebel shares the same anti-Semitic joke that the interrogating English soldiers do is just another reminder of the how the pecking order of prejudice works.
The second play is about labor, money and the need to stay warm; as well as the need for dignity, even after death. A tailor negotiates with a poor man to make him a new, warm coat, but (at least as I understood), he only truly offers after he has heard the man died. That it takes a ghost to readdress charity makes sense…you don’t know what you’ve lost till it’s gone. The ghost suffers like all poor but in the end (or in the afterlife) takes his retribution from the greedy employer while the tailor relies on his schnapps to make sense of his own life.
Both plays are beautifully acted by Menachem Fox, Stuart Cullen, Lev Herskovitz, Ilan Kwittken, Shane Baker and Fergal O’Hanlon. Mr. Baker was also the translator. Show runs till July 2.



From Yiddishkeit to Wongolite…composer Dave Ogrin has taken his wonderful Wild Women of Planet Wongo which originally was presented in a classic theatrical setting and moved it to the outer galaxy of Bushwick for a cosmic immersive experience in space. With the feel of a 60’s B movie, two astronauts, delivering CheesyMoon Crater Chips to hungry space stations, find themselves after three long years on a planet in habited only by women. Though hesitant at first, the captain finally joins his crewmate in tasting the delicacies of the Wongo Flesh, in his case, the Queen. But sex isn’t the only thing the Wongettes have in mind…they are also starved –and have very different plans for their male guests.
It’s great fun to interact with the Amazonian Wongo girls and drink Wongotini’s made fresh at the Brooklyn Fireproof bar. The book by Steve Mackes, lyrics by Ben Budick, Steve Mackes, and Dave Ogrin is witty, sexy and very feel good. (The Wongotinis help with that, too). The cast of young singer dancers is joyful and lovingly directed by David Rigano. Musical director is Rachel Dean with choreography by Juson Williams.
The show runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday until July 4, with a Wongo dance party after the late show on weekends. If you can’t get to Joshua Tree this summer to make contact with the aliens, I’d happily settle for Bushwick and Wongo World.


Written by nancykoan

June 16, 2015 at 3:32 am

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The Dark of the Moon hits The Beacon

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While making a film about John Lennon’s power to continually draw people to him, I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet a few tribute performers. I was surprised to find them uniquely to be themselves, and though they love playing at being John and spreading his sound out to the world, they are doing it as artists…it’s a great way to make a living and keeps the music alive. Plus they are free to play the great music without any of the complicated by the inner fighting of the original groups.


I’ve never seen the band Brit Floyd who will be coming to the Beacon on May 12 in their Space & Time tour, but spoke to musical director Damian Darlington. Damian has played with Brit Floyd all over the world. The productions are elaborate with the kind of stage magic one could expect of Pink Floyd. Damian said, “we give the audience a chance to experience what is was like…and they find something deep inside.”

Pink Floyd’s philosophic lyrics and psychedelic sound made them one of the most commercially successful and influential groups in music. The co-founder Syd Barrett, a brilliant artist, had to leave the group after years of mental struggle. The stories about him are legend…like walking out onstage with Brylcream and Mandrax in his hair, all of it melting under the hot stage lights, so that he looked like a candle on the wan. The other members played on in different combinations for years, despite quarrels about all the things rockers quarrel about. Through it all, though, they produced stellar albums: The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and The Final Cut, 1983), Wish you Were Here (1975), Animals (1977) (1975), The Wall (1979) and The Final Cut (1983).

Their music could be dark and sad, but always deep and moving. They created dreamscapes where all feelings were up for exploration.

Damian on his rare time off also has an acoustic band, Acoustic Unlimited. The other members include Rob Stringer, Ian Cattell, Bobby Harrison, Aaran Ahmun, Carl Brunsdon, Thomas Ashbrook, plus back up singers. They have all been together a long while and are tight. The show has a new set list, fifty years of Pink Floyd and an enhanced light show.

It may still be possible to catch remnants of the real Pink Floyd… there are always rumors of reuniting but the last time they all played together was 2005 and since then members have died. So it’s a very good thing indeed that Brit Floyd keeps the candle burning with what I’m expecting to be a knock out show.


Written by nancykoan

April 8, 2015 at 2:24 am

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