The Public Theater
Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director
Patrick Willingham, Executive Director
Book by Sybille Pearson
Music & Lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa
Based on the Novel by Edna Ferber
Directed by Michael Greif
Enrique Acevedo, Raul Aranas, Mary Bacon, Kate Baldwin,
Miguel Cervantes, Natalie Cortez, Rocio Del Mar Valles, John Dossett, Jon Fletcher, PJ Griffith, Michael Halling, Brian d’Arcy James, Mackenzie Mauzy, Doreen Montalvo, Michele Pawk, Allison Rogers, Isabel Santiago, Martin Sola, Bobby Steggert, Matthew Stocke,
Katie Thompson, and William Youmans
At The Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street
NY, NY 10003
Scenic Design: Allen Moyer
Lighting Design: Kenneth Posner
Costume Design: Jeff Manshie
Sound Design: Brian Ronan
Hair & Wig Design: David Brian Brown
Orchestrations: Bruce Coughlin
Additional Orchestrations: Larry Hochman
Music Director: Chris Fenwick
Music Coordinator: John Miller
Vocal Coach: Kate Wilson
Choreographer: Alex Sanchez
Production Stage Manager: Judith Schoenfeld
Casting: Jonathan Thaler & Heidi Griffiths
Director of Communications: Candi Adams
Director of Marketing: Tom McCann
General Manager: Steven Showalter
Production Exec.: Ruth E. Sternberg
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 16, 2012 Matinee
I distinctly remember watching the 1950’s film, Giant, a few years ago, with Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean. Because of the close-ups and spotlights, their gestures and emotions were vividly palpable. Today’s matinee of Giant, at The Public Theater, was produced on a very busy stage, for over three hours (two intermissions would have worked better, or at least one longer one). Edna Ferber’s novel, on which Sybille Pearson based the book of this musical, tells a long-winded tale of Jordan “Bick” Benedict (Brian D’Arcy James), a Texas heir and his sister, Luz Benedict (Michele Pawk), whose lives change dramatically when Bick buys a frisky horse for his ranch and also gets a spirited bride in the bargain. That bride is Leslie Lynnton Benedict (Kate Baldwin), a spunky, yet refined lady from Virginia. Their marriage and their individual relationships with Luz, who treats Leslie with disdain, are the framework of the play. Bick and Leslie’s children, particularly Jordy Benedict, Jr., played by the ever-engaging Bobby Steggert, plus a family from Mexico, on a neighboring Texan property, and finally the fate of Jett Rink (PJ Griffith), a drifter, who was taken in as a ranch hand by Luz, all add texture and sub-plots to this meandering, monumental tale.
Mr. Steggert and Mr. Griffith are easily two of the more fascinating characters, with profound, charged characterizations. Mr. Steggert plays the courageous Jordy, who fights Jett (who grabbed opportunities and now owns oil wells and resorts), mano a mano, out of devotion to his loving, Mexican wife, Juana Guerra (Natalie Cortez). Mr. Griffith (Jett) has rapidly morphed from the bedraggled ranch hand to the swaggering, nouveau riche, silk-suited millionaire. Jett and Leslie (who has been torn in love, besides being torn in destiny) have an almost, or maybe passing affair, and it seems more than coincidental that Mr. Steggert, as Jordy, looks like a youthful Mr. Griffith, as Jett Link. That’s one reason why their manly fistfight is so poignant. Another reason is the ethnic theme of Latinos as proud Americans. In fact, another sub-plot involves the story of Angel Obregon, Jr., (Miguel Cervantes), who puts on a uniform to defend America, although his family had been much maligned for no other reason than their Mexican identity. Two additional characters have spotlighted moments, Vashti Hake Snythe, as a boozing, bubbly, crooning divorcée, and John Dossett, as Bick’s advice-lending, wise uncle “Bawley” Benedict. Other compelling actors are Isabel Santiago, as Deluvina Obregon, and Enrique Acevedo, as Miguel Obregon.
Brian D’Arcy James and Kate Baldwin, at the center of this musical production, sing with bravura grace and power. The Public Theater seating rises very high in the rear rows, and it’s incumbent on the performers to project, with the help of a good sound design, which Brian Ronan delivered. As today was stormy, and the show began exactly on the hour, I spent the first act sitting in the rear row. Mr. D’Arcy James and Ms. Baldwin both projected vocally. Michael John LaChiusa, who composed music and wrote lyrics, kept the momentum melodic and transporting. Allen Moyer’s design of indoor ranch, outdoor plains, and hotel conference space are uncluttered enough to keep the expansive cast in focus. Kenneth Posner’s vivid sunsets are magnetic, while Jeff Mahshie’s costumes are especially true to the Southwest Texan lifestyle, circa 1925-1952. Chris Fenwick, as Music Director and Conductor, was placed with his vibrant, sixteen-piece orchestra up and above the stage, in a scrim-shielded loft. Michael Greif directed this very complex show, with innumerable characters and elaborate plot, with a level of sophistication and proficiency. Kudos to Edna Ferber.
Brian d'Arcy James and Kate Baldwin in "Giant"
at The Public Theater
Courtesy of Joan Marcus
Brian d'Arcy James in "Giant"
at The Public Theater
Courtesy of Joan Marcus