Art & Artists
Art Basel 07
Art Basel 08
Art of Life
Basil Twist's Petrushka
Betty Tompkins
Diane Keaton Tribute
Edward Steichen
Gertrude Stein
Les Nubians
New Museum
Peek-A-Boo Revue
Pill Awards
Photogs to the Stars
Erotic Art Museum

A History of Violence

An Inconvenient Truth
Angels in America
Brokeback Mountain
Chris and Don
Little Children
Liza with a Z
Man on Wire
Notes on a Scandal
That Man: Peter Berlin
The History Boys
The Queen
The Savages
Woodstock Uncut
Morgan James
Joey Arias in Concert
Arias & Vine
Arias with a Twist
Brilliant Mistake
Candi Stanton
Diana Ross
Fight the People
Fish Circus
Fish Circus V2
Gavin Creel
Joe G's Winter Party
John Bucchino
Kevin Aviance
Lisa Shaw
Maximus 3000
Meow Meow
Paul Winter
Ute Lemper
A Chorus Line
ABT's Romeo & Juliet
August: Osage County
Avenue Q
Boeing Boeing
Coram Boy
Faith Healer
Getting Home
Grey Gardens
Heartbreak House
Joan Rivers
Journey's End
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Light in the Piazza
Marga Gomez
Mary Stuart
Movin’ Out
New York City Ballet
Rainy Days & Mondays
Rent 10
Some Men
Spelling Bee
Spring Awakening
Sunday in the Park
Sweeney Todd
The Little Dog Laughed
The Seagull
The Vertical Hour
Threepenny Opera
Times They Are A-Changin
Trailer Park
Wall to Wall Broadway
Photo Credit :: MRNY
Arts & Entertainment
Kismet at City Center
By Mark Thompson & Robert Doyle
February 9, 2006 
Share |

Let’s face it, who goes to musical theatre for plot? And particularly when said plot involves a lovelorn Caliph and a homeless poet’s daughter finding true love in the gardens of Baghdad, circa 1071, and includes, for comic relief, a cuckolded Wazir and his lustful wife. Based on a 1911 melodrama, with a musical score adapted from the work of 19th-century Russian composer, Alexander Borodin, Kismet opened in 1953, won six Tonys, including Best Musical as well as one for its star, Alfred Drake, and ran for 583 performances.

All of which might, nonetheless, mean very little to those not versed in musical theatre, or else born into a post-Eisenhower America – of whom there seemed to be very few in attendance at the recent City Center Encores! revival. No, this was an audience of theatre cognoscenti, eager to hear again those Eisenhower-era chart-topping radio hits “Stranger in Paradise,” “Baubles, Bangles and Beads,” and “And This Is My Beloved.” And given that this was the first revival of Kismet since its adaptation for Eartha Kitt inTimbuktu, and the opening night performance of the City Center Encores! series, and the performance sold-out, the anticipation was palpable. Sondheim was in the house, as was former Citicorp CEO, Sanford Weill, and yes, down in front, there was, unmistakably, Paul Newman. Three giants in their own way, and all three of them waiting for Paul Gemignani to take the stand for the first time in his new role of Music Director.

Even during the overture, you could almost hear the audience humming along. They knew this score, forward and backward, and they anticipated every entrance as if it were a window opening onto a more carefree world – where Baghdad could be a punch line without any irony whatsoever. And yet amidst the misty water-colored memories, this production, thanks to a stellar cast, stood on its own. Reprising the comic chemistry they evinced in Kiss Me, Kate, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marin Mazzie imbued their somewhat-mothballed roles with such zing and snap, and such perfect diction in their singing, that even the most strained rhymes hit their target.

And yet this was a show which belonged to Marcy Harriell, playing Marsinah, the poet, Hajj’s, daughter. As soon as she made her fleet-footed entrance with her winsome combination of wide-eyed innocence and flirtatious sauciness, Ms. Harriell captured the heart and soul of this audience. Her rendition of “Stranger in Paradise” embodied perfectly what it feels to be under the spell of another, without a care in the world. And when later she sang “And This is My Beloved,” in her crystal-clear soprano, the applause and cheers circled the theatre as she brought down the house. Small wonder then that at show’s end, the esteemed Mr. Newman was quickly on his feet when Ms. Harriell took her bow.

Such were the many virtues of this production that its quirks and historical license, as well as the aforementioned plot contrivances, were easily forgiven. When a cast includes Elizabeth Parkinson as a genie, working her seductive and extremely potent wiles on the audience, without uttering a single word, and with Lonny Price as director and John Lee Beatty in charge of sets, it’s understandable why the majority of the audience quickly followed Mr. Newman’s lead.

Whether or not, Kismet travels onward from here hardly matters, for it was evident that this night’s audience had once again found their paradise in their fondly-remembered oasis just outside of Baghdad.