Monday, March 27, 2017

The New Yorkers

Walking the 79th Street transverse, which was closed to vehicular traffic for yesterday's Greek Independence Day Parade.
1:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, March 27, 2017. A dull-grey overcast sky, an early Spring Sunday, yesterday in New York. And cold, with temperatures in the low 40s.
Walking the line.
That didn’t matter. Because I went as a guest of a friend to New York City Center to see the current Encores! musical revival, Cole Porter’s “The New Yorkers.”

I have seen many Encores! productions — all revivals of Broadway shows of other years or eras. After seeing their production of The New Yorkers yesterday afternoon I only regret is that the show is not playing on Broadway right now, in an unlimited run. With the same cast. Of the shows I’ve seen at Encores! and all from very good to boffo, The New Yorkers was greatest entertainment I have ever seen on that stage. And that’s saying something because their productions are all brilliantly produced and directed.

The original show, which opened in 1930, was written by Herbert Fields based on a story created by cartoonist Peter Arno and writer/producer E. Ray Goetz with music and lyrics by Cole Porter. Several songs these almost 90 years later are standards in the American Songbook, while others, lesser known remain classics with cabaret artists. It was, I learned later reading Encores! Artistic Director Jack Viertel in the Playbill, that this production of the show has been sort of “restored.”

The original 1930 cover art.
Viertel writes: “ ... (the) show had everything: girls and gags, stuffy gents, unshaven goons .... The unusually reckless tone was refreshing ... combining ribald high society sex comedy with a gangland backdrop, a few prescient notions about theater of the absurd, and, of course, many elements of vaudeville.” There is a moment mid-the first Act when a young woman named Cyrille Aimee, coming from the back of the orchestra onto an empty stage, sings a haunting version of “Love For Sale.” She made the classic new again.

The entire “restoration” is seamless. Its (new) subtitle is “A Sociological Musical Satire.” What was originally a musical comedy/variety/part-vaudevillian show is now a period piece of a musical comedy/variety/part-vaudevillian show about another era of the American 20th century, but as contemporary as anything needs to be to capture your attention and make you laugh non-stop throughout.

Great performances by a GREAT cast. It remains astounding to me that there are so many very talented actors singers and dancers (all in one) here in New York.
This show that should be moved to Broadway, as is — without spectacular sets but as basic and appropriate as it is in the Encores! production. And with the same fabulous cast. Don’t change a thing. Great costumes, hilarious performances, great singing and dancing (even “tap”) and Cole Porter sophisticated wit, the people’s wit.
Tam Mutu and Scarlett Strallen taking their bows at yesterday afternoon's final performance of Cole Porter's "The New Yorkers" at the New York City Center Encores!
Peter Arno, who came up with the story back in the 1920s, was the first cartoonist for the  New Yorker. He was barely in his 20s when he first started producing for the magazine. It was the time of Prohibition when speakeasy nightlife in the Big Town was rife and imbibing, and against the “law.” People dressed and went out on the town.
More bows to the boxes and the balconies.
The curtain goes up, the orchestra plays the overture and the show begins, taking us up on a trip of song and dance and nonsense hilarity that only stops for a breath when the curtain rings down. The show ends with a classic Cole Porter song that is not a standard but remains a steadfast cabaret song:

“I happen to like to New York, I happen to love this town.

I like the city air, I like to drink of it.
The more I see New York the more I think of it.
I like the sight and the sound and even the stink of it.
I happen to like New York.”

Leaving the audience on a great big up note.
Last Monday night here in New York, at the Directors’ Guild of America, Elizabeth Segerstrom and the Segerstrom Family, South Coast Plaza and Carnegie Hall presented in screening the New York premiere of the documentary Henry T. Segerstrom: Imagining The Future.

The scion of a Southern California farming family who settled in Orange County in the late 19th century, Mr. Segerstrom became known for transforming his family’s lima bean fields in Southern California into a world-renowned luxury retail destination, South Coast Plaza. He made Nordstrom into a national presence by convincing its owners to expand beyond the Pacific Northwest to South Coast Plaza, and brought exclusive European designers such as Chanel and Hermès to Orange County, creating one of the highest grossing planned retail centers in the United States.
Henry and Elizabeth Segerstrom
Entrepreneur, philanthropist and cultural leader Mr. Segerstrom, who died in 2015, became the founder and supporter of national arts institutions in both California and New York, including Carnegie Hall and Segerstrom Center for the Arts, and a friend to leading artists including Isamu Noguchi, Plácido Domingo, Richard Serra and Valery Gergiev.

The documentary, narrated by television and Broadway star Matthew Morrison, includes recent recollections and archival footage of many of world-renowned men and women who knew Segerstrom as a business partner, patron of the arts and architecture, luxury retail innovator, and friend. They include Cesar Pelli, Isamu Noguchi, Misty Copeland, Bruce Nordstrom, Valery Gergiev, Frank Gehry, Renee Fleming, Misty Copeland, Nigel Lythgoe, Michael Gold, Rudolf Nureyev, and Peter Walker. It premieres on New York’s public television stations this coming Friday, March 31 at 10:30 p.m. on THIRTEEN and Sunday, April 2 at 10 p.m. on WLIW21.
Anton Segerstrom, Renee Fleming, and Elizabeth Segerstrom
Through his leadership and funding and the donation of Segerstrom family land, he spearheaded the creation of the Orange County Performing Arts Center, then oversaw its further expansion into a multi-disciplinary campus now named the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

During his frequent visits to New York City, Henry Segerstrom also became deeply devoted to the history and majesty of Carnegie Hall, giving major financial support to the Carnegie Hall Foundation. In 2009 he established a cross-country partnership between Carnegie Hall and Segerstrom Center for the Arts, resulting in the first presentation of Carnegie Hall’s festival programming outside of New York.
After the screening there was a champagne dinner held in the Weill Terrace Room attended by a gathering of philanthropists, cultural dignitaries, filmmakers, performing artists, and leaders of global fashion brands. Macy’s CEO and Chairman Terry J. Lundgren offered welcoming remarks on behalf of Elizabeth Segerstrom, the hostess of the event, honoring the life of her husband, who died in 2015.

Lundgren also introduced Renee Fleming who sang a Puccini aria followed by a beautiful and emotionally affecting “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which Fleming knew to be Segerstrom’s favorite from her long friendship with the family.
Terry J. Lundgren
Renee Fleming
Guests included H.E. Nassir and Muna Rihani Al-Nasser, Charles Askegard, Prosper Assouline, Michele Ateyeh, Yanna Avis, Laurie Bodor, Ashley Bouder, Lady Liliana Cavendish, Cece Cord, Rita Cosby, Tom Costello, Drew Damman, Tiffany Dubin, Maxim and Irina Dvorovenko, Lanessa Elrod, Chip Fisher, Olivia Flatto, Christopher Forbes, Francine LeFrak and Rick Friedberg, Michele Gerber Klein, Delphine and Guillaume Gesquiere, Michael Gould, Catherine Hall, Maria Hall Brown, Catharine Hamilton, Gregory and Margaret Hedberg, John Buffalo Mailer, Kevin McKenzie, Chris Minev, Aldo Moschini, Lami Oladipo, Daniel Paltridge, Cole Rumbough, Andy Russell, Dame Jillian Sackler, Anton Segerstrom, Stephanie Stokes, Timothy and Susan Straider, Ty Woodson and Judy Zankel.
Irina and Max Dvorovenko, Veronica Bart, Martine Van Hamel, and Kevin McKenzie
Charles Askegard and Ashley Bouder Liliana Cavendish and Claudia Cividino
Charles Fabious, Julio Espada, and Alain Coblence
Elizabeth Segerstrom, Renee Fleming, Maria Hall Brown, and Sabina Gerjatowicz
Francine LeFrak Dame Jillian Sackler and Sana Sabbagh
Fern Mallis, Michael Gould, and Sarah Moss
H.E. Mr. Nassir Al-Nasser and Muna Rihani Al-Nasser
Cole Rumbough and Margaret Hedberg Yanna Avis and Cece Cord
Cece Cord, Stephanie Stokes, and Sharon King Hoge
Tiffany Dubin and Debbie Bancroft

Photographs by Annie Watt (Segestrom)

Contact DPC here.