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Friday, May 25, 2012

Broadway Reviews- Gore Vidal's The Best Man

I've been on a run of Broadway shows lately, and with eleven of them opening with in the last month or so, and have been remiss in posting reviews. Now that the Tony Awards are creeping up on June 12, I realized I've got to catch up.

I saw the revival of Gore Vidal's The Best Man last month, and as I am a political and Broadway junkie, this show was right up my alley. I saw John Larroquette, one of the stars, on his way into the theater a week before I attended the show and I told him how I enjoyed his Tony-winning performance in How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying,  and he graciously thanked me (PS- he is VERY tall).

The theater is set like the interior of a political convention, the setting of the show. There is red, white, and blue bunting all over the place, and the stage has dozens of campaign signs.
The campaign signs on the stage

It looked like a convention floor inside the theater

Although the show was written in the 1960s, it is timely. John Larroquette plays former Secretary of State Russell locked in a primary battle with a young, snaky Senator Cantwell from the South, played by Eric McCormack (TV's Will & Grace).

Russell wants to take the high moral road, against the advice of others, while Cantwell is willing to play dirty to get the nomination. Both actors are good, and Larroquette is marvelous in everything he does. Candice Bergen plays his wife, reluctant to campaign because she wants a divorce from her philandering husband. It was joy to see her on stage, and the audience gave her thunderous applause when she appeared on stage. Kerry Butler is perfect as Cantwell's steely magnolia of a wife, urging her husband on to do what is necessary to get the nomination.

James Earl Jones steals the show as he eats up the scenery portraying former President, a good ol' Southern boy whose plays both sides against each other as they wait for his endorsement. Jones has the best role in the show, and he plays it to the hilt. He was rewarded with a nomination for Best Leading Actor in a play, although I felt his role was more of a featured role.

Angela Lansbury, the party Chairman of the Women's Division, plays the role beautifully. It  was a joy to see her and Jones in the play together, a real treat for the viewer.

The show cover many topics timely for today (unfortunately), such as contraception, religion and prejudice against gays. (It's sad that we are still fighting about this stuff forty years after the play was written. Have we made such little progress?)

There are some great lines from this funny, thought-provoking show. Jones says  he doesn't like conservatives because "they pour God all over everything, like ketchup."

Candice Bergen's character is the voice of reason in one fabulous scene with herself, Butler and Lansbury. As Butler takes jabs at Bergen's husband, Bergen talks about hoping that "intelligence is contagious", and says that the role of the wives is to be " interchangeably inoffensive".  I saw some shades of Murphy Brown in those readings.

Gore Vidal's Best Man is nominated for Best Revival of a Play, and I would say go see this if only for the masterful performances. It's not often you get so many terrific performers on one stage. This is a show worth paying full-price for a ticket. See it soon, it has a limited run.

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