*The Golden Apple,* 5/12/17
I saw *The Golden Apple* at City Center on 5/12/17. It was presented by Encores!, a group at City Center that does forgotten and/or under-appreciated Broadway musicals. I see nearly everything they do. The shows aren't always great, but they're always worth seeing. Plus my friend Dennis raves about this show, he wore out the original cast album. The show had a short run off Broadway starting in March of 1954, then moved to Broadway in April (it was the first off Broadway musical to move to Broadway), and closed in August. The original cast album turned it into a cult favorite. The music is by Jerome Moross, the lyrics and book by John Latouche. I had no familiarity with Moross, but know Latouche from *Cabin in the Sky* (a much stronger Encores! show), *Candide,* and *The Ballad of Baby Doe.*
Hm. I'm afraid I didn't really like the show. It's more of an opera or operetta than a musical, because there's no dialogue, it's all sung. I ran into my friend Tom in the intermission - - Tom is a songwriter and sees everything that Encores! does, has an encyclopedic knowledge of Broadway musicals (and many other things). He hit the nail on the head and said that the primary problem is that the songs, while appealing, are rather short. The other 2/3 of the show is what would be classified as recitative in an opera, and the music isn't inspired, it all sounds the same. Not nearly enough rhythmic variation in the recitative.
I'll discuss three of the performers. Soprano Mikaela Bennett had the most operatic voice in the cast, she played Penelope. She's a fourth-year undergrad at Juilliard, this was her professional stage debut! How cute is that! Lovely voice, would love to hear her in a real opera.
Diane Schoff and I saw *42nd Street* on Broadway sometime around 2003. My strongest memory of that show was the sloppy-as-hell tap-dancing. I've never seen anything like it, it was total DREK. My second strongest memory was the voice of the leading lady, the woman playing the grand Broadway star. I wish I knew who it was - - it was late in the run, so it wasn't Christine Ebersole. People often describe someone as having a "rapid vibrato," we all know what that means, but this woman had a strange mannerism I hadn't heard before, which I termed a "vapid vibrato." She did this croonerish kind of thing where she landed on a note and then backed away from it, giving it a fragrant, hollow aura. Vapid. She did this all night long and it drove me batty. The lead baritone in *The Golden Apple* was Ryan Silverman, he played Ulysees. He did the same thing and I liked it just as much.
The greatest performance by far was Lindsay Mendez as Helen. Kaye Ballard played this role in the original production and Mendez had a serious and delightful Ballard thing going on. She was adorable, sang like a dream (this girl knows how to deliver a number), and looked adorable in her turn-of-the-century costumes. She sang the one somewhat well-known song in the show, "Lazy afternoon." Here's Ballard herself, on the original cast recording: