WPCNR STAGE DOOR JOHNNY. Theatrical Review By John F. Bailey. October 11, 2013:
If it wasn’t for the substitution notice in the Kiss Me Kate program at the Westchester Broadway Theatre matinee Wednesday, you’d never know Jeannie Shubitz had only been doing this classic show a week.
You would not know this production was the first time she was performing the signature role of Kate in the Cole Porter musical that had to rush this “Jeannie” into the lead role giving her only three days to prepare!
That the director, James Brennan when his leading lady was unable to complete the run called for an “Allentown”—the legendary nickname for the character that took over the role in the musical “42nd Street” That was just a plot of a old musical. But it does not happen in real theatre, does it?
Well Jeannie Shubitz does it for real folks, and you Mr. and Mrs. And Ms. Westchester can see this comet of fire , poise and confidence and rootin’ tootin’ high falutin’ talent ignite the stage.
From the moment she walks into the joint (the stage) she has the walk, demeanor, the diva mystique, flashing sparks with the dynamic leading man, William Michals as her former husband Fred Graham/ Petrucio.
Michals is Broadway Gold – the Beast in Beauty and the Beast and Emile de Becque in the Tony winning revival, South Pacific. The kid matches him measure for measure!
When Ms. Shubitz playing Lilli Vanesi practices bows with Michals before the chorus in rehearsal – the kid, and she is a kid, looks every bit, action, nuance and inflection a Broadway legend, playing the character based on the famous Lynn Fontaine of Lunt and Fontaine fame. The attitudes of those legends towards each other in a mid 1930s production inspired creation of Kiss Me Kate.
You feel the chemistry push back between Michals and Shubitz—the back and forth the clever dialogue of sparring actor and actress, and battling Shakespeare characters Kate and Petruchio that drive “musical” Taming of the Shrew performance the audience is watching. Ms. Shubitz works every comedy line sublimely with timing that is instinctive. She brings out a Michals’ Fred Graham, and dynamic Petruchio .
Michals rises to the Shubitz spirit– delivering a resonance and presence just as I saw Opening Night, but it really grew this afternoon. Shubitz makes a seamless, professional transition that saves the show and makes the whole production move with zip
zing and ginger just the way Cole would have liked it.
As WPCNR told you in my first review of this show, in which I remarked on the great chemistry between Mr. Michals and the first Kate, (Christianne Tisdale, whom we wish well) that chemistry is not only sustained but reaches its own unique intensity.
Shubitz brings fascinating personality to her Lilli Vanesi.
The repartee in the dressing room between Fred and Lilli arguing is sharper, more conversational like an old married couple (take it from me, I know). The kid can act as well and sing with the clarity, peal, shimmer, glimmer, and knockout punch that lifts every song she sings, I suspect just the way Cole Porter would like to hear it.
She delivers a dreamy, wistful sensitivity of memory Wunderbar her first big number with Mr. Michals whose lusty baritone compliments her delicate waltzy echoes of memory. Michals voice fits hers, complimenting her, seeming to pour his heart’s joy out. Shubitz and Michals, Michals and Shubitz set the tone of love beyond personality with this song. Subitz’s delicate hand gestures during give a detailed flourish that sell this sentimentality solidly and delivers the “our song” feeling and all couples have “their song.”
Shubitz after receiving flowers whom she thinks from Fred, turns So In Love into a cocktail od champagne, dreams, and devotion elevating and sweeping the range of the Cole Porter classic. Cole would have loved her version. He wrote songs that go up and down scale and are very hard to sing. You got to have range and heart to deliver a Cole Porter sound and make all hearts soar. Shubitz takes that song over All hearts soar, I know mine did.
On I Hate Men Subitz works the comedy number smoothly with great comic effect.
Never! Never! Never! Michals hurls and flips Shubitz and Shubitz gives it right back to him in hilarious fights and spats in the play within the musical.
Ms. Shubitz’s fight scenes with Michals are terrific, high energy, you feel her anger. You feel his anger. You feel his frustration. Most of all the banter asides that Petruchio (Michals) is whispering to Kate after she finds out onstage that flowers for her were for another actress, are so well delivered by both– you think Subitz and Michals had been doing the roles for years like Allen Lunt and Lynn Fontaine.
Hey — her “Never, Never, Never” tour de force on the Kiss Me Kate signature song, where she goes up and down the scale never pausing for breath (that you can see) is one of the comic and vocal highlights. (She is refusing Petruchio in most unladylike fashion.)
Shubitz brings a lot of Katherine Hepburnesque to her performance – just the personality Kate the Shrew needs – and her Lilli Vanessa is temperamental, emotional, proud.
Here’s the kick in the head: You would never know Ms.Shubitz has never done a fight scene before.
Her finale I am Ashamed That Women Are So Simple has a contriteness and beautiful tide of feeling that her voice-to-remember-once-you’ve-heard-it renders like a homily.
You cannot make this stuff up.
So Mr. and Mrs. and Ms. Westchester, you get three shows in one if you go to see Ms. Shubitz as Kate in Kiss Me Kate . You see Kiss Me Kate, you see Taming of the Shrew (the play being performed in Kiss Me Kate, and you see 42nd Street for real.
In 42nd Street, the Marge and Gower Champion musical produced by David Merrick in 1956, the musical plot goes like this: Broadway hopeful is asked to step in by desperate director with when the main actress breaks a leg. The ingénue has never played the role before. She goes on in three days.
The producer character asks the heroine whom he has nicknamed “Allentown” if she will take over the role, and asks, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Come on, Allentown. Will you do it?”
She says “I’ll do it!”
Jeannie Shubitz said, “I’ll do it.”
And boy does Jeannie Shubitz do it.
Ms. Shubitz is living proof of the magic of theater. It’s where dreams come true.
Ms. Shubitz writes her own dream through November 3 at WBT.
Need I say call the box office today at 914-592-2222 or go to www.BroadwayTheatre.com tell them the CitizeNetReporter sent you.
You’re gonna love this show, I guarantee it!
I guarantee you’ll love Ms. Shubitz, too!
And you knowsomething, part of the packed matinee audience were the Allentown Seniors, all the way from Pennsylvania. You cannot make this stuff up!
You can’t tell me the theatre isn’t magic.