Roberta on the Arts
"Romantic Poetry" at Manhattan Theatre Club, NY City Center Stage I
Contact Roberta
Jazz and Cabaret Corner
On Location with Roberta
In the Galleries: Artists and Photographers
Backstage with the Playwrights and Filmmakers
Classical and Cultural Connections
New CDs
Arts and Education
Onstage with the Dancers
Offstage with the Dancers
Upcoming Events
Special Events
Memorable Misadventures
Our Sponsors

"Romantic Poetry" at Manhattan Theatre Club, NY City Center Stage I

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Romantic Poetry
Manhattan Theatre Club
City Center Stage I
West 55th Street, Btw. 6th and 7th Avenues

Featuring: Jeb Brown as Red
Tom Luca as Frankie
Ivan Hernandez as Fred
Mark Linn-Baker as Carl
Patina Renea Miller as Mary
Emily Swallow as Connie

Artistic Director, Lynne Meadow
Executive Producer, Barry Grove
Book and Lyrics by John Patrick Shanley
Music by Henry Krieger
Directed by John Patrick Shanley
Scenic Design, David Korins
Costume Design, Laura Bauer
Lighting Design, Donald Holder
Sound Design, Brian Ronan
Production Stage Manager, Dawn Wagner
Casting, David Caparelliotis
Music Director/Vocal Arranger, Sam Davis
Orchestrations, August Eriksmoen
Music Coordinator, Howard Joines
Musical Staging by Devanand Janki
General Manager, Florie Seery
Assoc. Artistic Director, Mandy Greenfield
Stage Manager, Kelly Hance
Dance Captain, Paige Price
Orchestra Conductor/Pianist, Gregory M. Brown
Director of Marketing, Debra Waxman-Pilla
Press Representative, Boneau/Bryan-Brown

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 14, 2008

Sometimes, within a disappointing production, of lyrics that make you wince and wrap-around Musak that’s a substitute for dramatically spoken dialogue, a star is born. Emily Swallow saved the evening for this shallow, but oft entertaining musical, about off-and-on-again romance, with outsized comedic personality and vaudevillian timing. And, her vocal talent was the biggest surprise, as she sang John Patrick Shanley’s lyrics to Henry Krieger’s music, all with a “Woodmere, LI” accent! Shanley is known for his Oscar-winning 1987 screenplay of “Moonstruck” and Tony, Pulitzer, and Drama Desk Award-winning play, “Doubt”, and Krieger composed the Grammy Award-winning music for “Dreamgirls” and the music for “Sideshow”. With credentials such as these, the 26 songs in this two-act show at Manhattan Theatre Club should have been memorably outstanding. Instead, they were occasionally entertaining, always melodic, and once in awhile delivered with pizzazz. When Emily Swallow, as Connie, sang “What About Love?” and “You’re My Only Guy”, I noted in my program that I’d expect to see her again soon.

The other star of the show was Mark Linn-Baker, Connie’s ex-husband and lawyer, Carl, who was funny the moment he arrived onstage. His gestures and unrepressed antics added seasoned talent, especially in a duo with Red (Jeb Brown), Connie’s other ex-husband, who had seen better days. The plot is thin, which should have been perfect for the cabaret-styled vignettes, had there been fewer embarrassing songs and nonsensical repartee. Connie and Fred (Ivan Hernandez), from Long Island’s Five Towns and New Jersey are on their wedding and honeymoon at a mediocre resort. Mary (Patina Renea Miller) is the hyper Wedding Planner at the resort and brings the unpaid bill. And there the trouble begins. Eventually Mary (from Brooklyn, who wants to paint) falls in love with Frankie (Tom Luca, filling in for Jerry Dixon), friend of the newlyweds (from Downtown NY, who wants his own deli), and the plot “thickens” with revelations about the status of Connie’s two divorces, which never were legal, thanks to Carl, who had motives.

The performance highlights of this production, in addition to Ms. Swallow’s outsized talent, were: Carl and Red’s duo, “Through the Night”, totally hilarious, the Company’s undulating “Rumba Woman”, Frankie and Mary’s hot duo, “Is Anybody Home? There’s a Fire”, and Carl and Fred’s endearing “No One Listens to the Poor”. Sound effects included thunderclaps, whenever the “Five Towns” were mentioned, obviously for the NY audience, and set design, costumes, and lighting were all superb, with glittering pink-blue classy drapes, a stairway, an iconic bridal gown, and warm, glowing spotlights. The sound was well-conceived, not overly produced or amplified, and the addition of the orchestral ensemble added a casual, cabaret ambiance. I think there’s still a future for this show, but in a small Club, not a theatre, cutting at least one-third of the songs, eliminating the sets, and relying on good vocals and comedic delivery to carry the music and lyrics, close to the audience, amidst cocktails and bistro tables. Some shows should grow, from Off-Broadway to Broadway, and some shows should condense, from Off-Broadway to the Clubs. I’d love to see Romantic Poetry again, in a Cabaret Lounge, and, of course, with Emily Swallow and Mark Linn-Baker in that cast.

Oliver Tickets > Dirty Dancing Tickets > Musical Tickets > Jimmy Carr Tickets >
Peter Kay Tickets > Ricky Gervais Tickets > Theatre Tickets

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at