November 9, 2009

The Royal Family

I saw the play The Royal Family at the Samuel Friedman Theatre last Saturday night (10/31). It stars the genteel Rosemary Harris. I just felt that like Angela Lansbury, she's a stage legend and I had to make sure that I at least saw her live onstage.

The play is about the Cavendish family, an acting dynasty which is said to be patterned after the Barrymores. Rosemary Harris plays the matriarch Fanny. This is Ms. Harris' second time in the play. She played Julie in the 1975 Broadway revival, a role now played by Jan Maxwell . Julie, Fanny's daughter is the current onstage leading lady and mother to the ingenue, Gwen, played by Kelli Barret. They are joined by Reg Rodgers who plays Tony Cavendish, Fanny's son and Julie's brother, the cad; John Glover who plays Herbert Dean, Fanny's uncle, is married to less-than-stellar actress, Kitty Dean (Ana Gasteyer); Tony Roberts as their faithful agent and family friend Oscar Wolf. What a great cast!

The play goes through an ordinary day in life of the Cavendish which include reading scripts, preparing for the theatre as well as dodging tabloids. It's a very funny play with witty dialog. Rosemary Harris is the epitome of grace and refinement on stage. She is captivating to watch her onstage as lines and movement naturally flow out of her body effortlessly entertaining the audience and making them (including me) laugh. It's as if she's not working at all and is really living as Fanny Cavendish right in front of you. Jan Maxwell was also remarkable as Julie. Like Ms. Harris, she is at ease onstage and a natural comic! Her breakdown in the middle of the play is hilarious! Tony Roberts is very charming as Oscar Wolf while John Glover and Reg Rodgers were enjoyable. Kelli Barret was great as the ingenue. The only person I didn't enjoy was Ana Gasteyer who I thought was overly hamming up her lines and gestures. I felt that she didn't need to do that as the dialogue was already quite amusing in itself.

The set was grand. It was the living room of an NY Upper East Side apartment complete with stairs and foyer. I felt I was a fly in their living room that night. On a side note, I've never been to the Friedman Theatre before. It's a beautiful theatre! With it's lounge on the mezzanine and basement filled with photos of their past productions. It's wonderful to get to look at production stills of Mary-Louise Parker in Proof, Cynthia Nixon in the Rabbit Hole and even Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party. Oh and another bonus that night, Donna McKechnie, the original Cassie in A Chorus Line, was sitting across the aisle from me. It was so cool!

Some photos I took that night:

The poster


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