of the best of the city's cultural buying guides -- off-beat in its
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Village Voice, Feb. 13, 2003
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Ronald Gross, Editor-in-Chief
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Al Hirschfeld Theatre
302 West 45th St.
(betwn 8th and 9th Avenues)
Review by Ronald Gross
NY Theater Buying Guide
BOTTOM LINE: Our highest recommendation! The
best musical on Broadway – and an important fable
about the profitability of diversity.
A fable about what?!
Yes, you read right: the season’s best musical is also a master class
in what American businesses (like yours) need to do to thrive in a new
“flat” world where everyone’s a customer.
Diversity – the understanding, cultivation, and strategic use of the
ways in which we are different -- is the bedrock of
organizational success today.
Saving a failing shoe factory becomes a rousing metaphor for reviving
any enterprise in which the creative energies of management and labor
have become stifled. You can learn more here than at Harvard’s
B-School, about finding new customers, meeting niche needs, fostering
organizational loyalty and productivity, and creating prosperity in the
midst of seeming decline. (A friend of mine who
teaches at Wharton screens the 2005 Miramax movie every Spring as
a preparation for finals week.)
From the opening number, “The Most Beautiful Thing in the Word” (a
shoe, of course), this song-song-song and dance-dance-dance
extravaganza focuses on what makes for a good enterprise – and the plot
takes a wondrously winding way back to that classical love of good
workmanship and masterful management.
And it’s also the best musical on Broadway. Cyni Lauper’s songs
range gloriously from pop to funk to new wave to tango, with an
occasional very personal lyric tucked into the interstices.
Significantly, most of the songs were re-worked to make the most of the
talents of the two leads when they came to be cast: Stark Sands as the
“male” lead and Billy Porter as the drag queen Lola. One remix,
of “Sex is in the Heel,” made the Top 10 on the Billboard club charts –
the first Broadway tune to do so in 25 years.
Under the directorial and choreographic genius of Jerry Mitchell, the
show achieves that rarest of melds: soul-stirring individual
performances and beautiful ensemble work.
Sands and Porter are amazing both as towering individual talents (they
both have more than one 11 o’clock numbers that brings down the house),
and in their work together, culminating in the unforgettable “Not My
Father’s Son”, a musical marriage of genders, races, and
Daniel Stewart Sherman is an audience favorite as the tough guy who
becomes truly a man. Annaleigh Ashford is utterly endearing
as the ingénue turned wise woman.
Every member of the creative team deserves full-throated kudos – the
scenic, costume, and lighting designs transform a grungy shoe factor
into a Milan fashion runway, and the musical supervision by Stephen
Oremus works wonderfully.
Let me leave you with Lola’s “Six Step Program” which could serve
any organization well in the new age when creativity through diversity
is the key to new markets, new products, and organizational renewal:
1. Pursue the truth.
2. Learn something new.
3. Accept yourself and you’ll accept others too.
4. Let love shine.
5. Let pride be your guide.
6. You can change the world when you change you mind.