Under the general heading less is more, what follows is a very short review of the limited Amazon series, Daisy Jones & The Six.
Everything about the show is spot on: writing, directing, casting, costumes, sets, music, cinematography, editing. In just 10 episodes, the music scene of the 1970s and the culture that made it all possible is captured to perfection. To say more is to paint the lily. I ain’t gonna do that.
From that terrific look back at a time a half century past I found myself transported to modern day Manhattan and the Audie Awards Gala. Only the nomination my wife received from the publishing industry for the audio presentation of her book, Apparently There Were Complaints, would get me off my warm island in the near dead of winter to fly to New York City. Besides my own Sharon Gless, other nominees in the category of Best Narration by the Author, were the award-winning actress Viola Davis, the fabulous comedienne, Hannah Gadsby, Molly Shannon from Saturday Night Live, and Sam Heughan… the brilliant hunk from one of our favorite series, Outlander.
I have recently highly praised the acting job Sharon did with the narration of her memoir, so it was with some (I think) understandable personal pride to have my opinion seconded by an association of professionals dedicated to the task of picking only the best. Even more so when the accolade being handed out is to a member of one’s own family.
Ms. Davis is very much the “flavor of the season,” Mr. Heughan is wrapping the 7th year of his incredibly popular… and lest it go unsaid… impressive Outlander series, and Australia’s Gadsby and New York’s Shannon are two media darlings. There was no way Sharon was going to walk away with this prize. Still, the time worn phrase “great just to be nominated” truly resonated when placed within the context of the august company she was keeping. I happily donned my velvet tuxedo jacket to be at her side. Oh yeah… Davis won. She also picked up the Audie for Best Book of the year across all of the categories for the very same tome. As indicated: very tough competition.
While in the Big Apple we saw three shows. Leopoldstadt by (arguably) the world’s finest living playwright, Tom Stoppard. This semi-autobiographical work may well go down as the signature piece of his career. It plows familiar territory yet remains surprisingly powerful. A large and talented cast serves the piece well. I found myself wishing for a better job of staging in the final moments of the drama, but nonetheless commend you to this sure Tony Award winner.
This was my fifth visit to Funny Girl at the August Wilson Theatre… the last three in an all but vain attempt to see Lea Michele play the career making role of Fanny Brice.
Did I really just write, “career making role?” Yeah… for Barbra Streisand… but who else?
Ms. Michele gives it her all… and that is plenty, by the way. She is very good. VERY good. If she had opened this revival instead of the sometimes unfairly maligned Beanie Feldstein, a Tony Award would very possibly be currently on her living room mantle. She didn’t, and it isn’t.
Good as she is… and she is worth the bucks and the wait… Barbra she is not. Not even close. You will not be hearing of Ms. Michele for the next fifty years the way we have all come to know about Ms. Streisand. You may well give this latest funny girl a well-deserved standing ovation at the time of her curtain call, but you will not… as I did all those years ago…find yourself standing on your seat, cheering, in that Broadway house after an opening number, while constructing a memory that lasts a lifetime.
It is a lot to ask… too much really… of any performer. But, hey, that is the risk taken by the producers, the actor… and the audience… at any revival. Especially a career making classic such as Funny Girl. By the way, despite Ms. Michele’s considerable talent and effort, the show remains a sub-standard production with a too small by half pit-band. Tovah Feldshuh continues to be terrific. Both she, Ramin Karimloo, and Jared Grimes are all improvements over the original cast.
PARADE is also a revival. Simply stated, it is a surprisingly terrific show. I did not see the original, nor did I ever watch the two movies based on the same, true story that is the cornerstone for this musical drama. I am, sight unseen, willing to bet that none of those predecessors could measure up to this production. The cast is perfection, the production perfectly conceived, and I cannot imagine better staging than I witnessed at Broadway’s Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. The venerable, and legendary, Harold Prince is credited with “co-conceiving” this production. I am not sure I know what that means, but Michael Arden is listed as the current director with Lauren Yalango-Grant and Christopher Cree Grant as co-choreographers.
I normally do not get so into the weeds with these kinds of credits, but these folks deserve to be singled out. Truly special… and spectacular work. Watch the Tony Awards Show… they will surely be there.
For those of you looking for value for money, you need look no further. Reading this column is about to save you $20. Do not… repeat…DO NOT rent or purchase Marlowe from your Amazon platform. It is simply awful. The normally decent cast cannot rescue the terrible writing and abysmal directing of this would be homage to film noir. Save your money. And your time.
Finally, a self-serving note: Despite what it says on the Cagney & Lacey website (www.cagneyandlacey.com) we are out of the softbound edition of Cagney & Lacey… and Me. Do not order it. On the plus side, if you order an autographed copy of the memoir in hardcover, we can now include (at no charge) the audio version of the book as well. It may not have been nominated for an Audie (not sure the award even existed back then) but it is this author’s very own voice version of the piece, and I am proud of it. All that is missing is background 70s music from Daisy Jones & The Six.
Follow Barney at:
To purchase “Cagney & Lacey and Me” click or go to: