Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Was out for a while... Catching up today

 My Review of Good Night, Oscar is up. Reprinted below.

Sean Hayes Amazes in Good Night, Oscar

Even those who have witnessed Sean Hayes on Broadway being hilarious (Act of God) and singing with Kristen Chenoweth (Promises, Promises) will be blown away by his performance in Good Night, Oscar. His performance as Oscar Levant is incredible, but it is a last scene performance as Oscar Levant at the piano that surprises and stuns in the best possible way.

Good Night, Oscar tells the story of one of Oscar’s performances on TV’s “Tonight starring Jack Paar.” Oscar Levant was a composer, pianist, actor and a regular guest on Jack Paar. He was admired by both New Yorkers and Jack Paar for his quick wit and cutting comments on this live program. Good Night, Oscar reprises one of the those TV shows.

Ben Rappaport & Sean Hayes ( PHOTO BY LIZ LAUREN)

The story opens with Bob Sarnoff (Peter Grosz), head of NBC, discussing with Jack Paar (Ben Rappaport) this evening's performance. Jack Paar is in Los Angeles for sweeps week, and he made a deal with the network to feature anyone he wants. He wants Oscar Levant, who has been on before and is both a pianist and a wit. Ben Rappaport is great as the quietly subversive Paar.

As showtimes nears, with no Oscar in sight, the network President becomes more and moreangry. Jack Paar finally learns the truth from Oscar's wife June (Emily Bergl). She has had Oscar committed to a mental institution. But, June continues, Parr isn’t to worry as she has signed him out for 4 hours and he will arrive momentarily. Which he does not. Sarnoff gets even more anxious and Paar keeps the show holding for Oscar. There is a funny bit where Sarnoff wants to cancel Oscar and bring on Xavier Cugat, a severe disappoint that Jack Paar is desperate to avoid.

When Oscar does show up he is jumpy, nervous, and hesitant about appearing on TV. As he gets more angsty, he tries to get to the pills he craves from his medical watchdog. Oscar is a mess waiting for the show and Mr. Hayes brings out the biting side of Oscar's personality. Oscar is touchy, cranky, and unpleasant to be around. He is watched over by medical supervisor Alvin Finney (Marchánt Davis) who brings both compassion and annoyance in the role.
Emily Bergl & Sean Hayes ( PHOTO BY LIZ LAUREN)

And then the Tonight show begins. Jack Paar brings out Oscar and on television he is witty and self-deprecating. This version of Oscar is extroverted and edgy. After the Paar – Levant interview is done, Paar and his wife beg Oscar to play the piano. This is what people expect, but a high Levant wants no part of it.

And yet, Oscar Levant does play. And he plays stunningly. Sean Hayes was trained as a classical pianist, and it shows. The rendition he plays is mastereful. Hayes brings down the house with his playing. It makes the audience want to hear more.

Sean Hayes is astonishing in this role. Oscar Levant was irascible, horrible, and self-centered as well as pithy, charming, and talented. Hayes brings all this together in a single evening, swerving between moods with ease.

Good Night, Oscar is brilliant. In addition to Sean Hayes, both Ben Rappaport and Emily Bergl transport us to that period with their emotions. Playwright Doug Wright and Director Lisa Peterson bring a seemingly innocuous moment into relevance and pathos. They are helped by a design, production, and costume team that works seamlessly. I loved it.

Good Night, Oscar
PlaywrightDoug Wright | DirectorLisa Peterson | CastSean Hayes, Emily Bergl, Marchant Davis, Ben Rappaport, Peter Grosz, Marchánt Davis

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