Winning reviews for 'Triumph' CD Music: Betty Buckley is singled out by critics for her fine work on this recording


October 26, 1998|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Jay Records has just released the original cast album of "Triumph of Love," the 1997 Broadway musical that made its debut at Center Stage two seasons ago. The CD retains the crisp, chamber sound of the show, while showcasing the distinctive voices of the seven-member cast.

And, there's a bonus song -- "If I Cannot Love," a solo for Betty Buckley that was cut after the show's third Broadway preview. Combined with the other half-dozen numbers she sings on the CD, solely or with fellow cast members, it should help boost sales among Buckley's large following.

The liner notes are illustrated with 11 production photos and include an essay on the show's origins as well as a plot summary by James Magruder, Center Stage's resident dramaturg and the author of the musical's book. Magruder's words also crop up in snatches of dialogue interspersed between songs.

The CD's first review, on Playbill Online, was laudatory. Critic Ken Mandelbaum wrote, "This is a superbly done album, very complete musically, and with nicely chosen bits of dialogue." Singling out Buckley, he said, "this ranks as one of her best recordings."

And, while we're on the subject of Buckley, yesterday ended the run of Paper Mill Playhouse's production of "Gypsy," in which she starred as Mama Rose. The critics gushed over the New Jersey production. The Village Voice's Michael Musto wrote, " brave Betty should be allowed to hang on to this role forever." And, comparing her to Mama Roses ranging from Ethel Merman to Tyne Daly, New York magazine's John Simon added, " until you catch 'Rose's Turn' as done by Betty Buckley at the Paper Mill Playhouse, you have not experienced the full, complex effect."

As for other "Triumph" alums: Christopher Sieber -- who played the prince -- is now playing the father of the Olsen twins in the new ABC sitcom "Two of a Kind." Susan Egan, who played the princess, is in the Stephen Sondheim revue, "Putting It Together," at Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum. And "Triumph's" director, Michael Mayer, nominated for a 1998 Tony for his is directing the Broadway revival of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," whose cast will include Roger Bart -- Harlequin in "Triumph" -- as Snoopy.

Meanwhile, "Triumph" has just completed its first professional post-Broadway run -- at Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre. The reviews were mostly positive. In the Philadelphia Inquirer, Clifford A. Ridley wrote, "Imagine that: a musical with truly melodic music and literate words. What a concept."

A comic turn

Theatre Hopkins has opened its season with a creditable production of Oliver Goldsmith's "She Stoops to Conquer." The 18th century comedy focuses on a young gentleman named Marlow who mistakes a private household for a country inn.

The young lady of the house, Kate Hardcastle, tries to use this mistake to her advantage. Marlow, whom her father hopes she will marry, is notoriously shy with proper ladies, but bold with lower-class women. So Kate, who is taken with Marlow at first sight, pretends to be barmaid of the "inn."

Although the production is a bit creaky, director Suzanne Pratt attempts to liven things up by adding a touch of audience interaction. At one point, after stealing some jewels that his mother, Mrs. Hardcastle, has been hoarding, Kate's half-brother Tony Lumpkin leaps into the audience for protection. Pratt has even created a sort of on-stage theater box. On opening night, however, no audience members were game enough to sit there.

Gina S. Braden, who was so forceful starring in last season's "Saint Joan," is a comic delight as Kate, broadening her gestures and accent when she impersonates the barmaid. Braden also has some tender scenes with J.R. Lyston, who plays her doting father, and whose performance will most likely become smoother as the run continues.

As Tony and Kate's mother, vain Mrs. Hardcastle, Carol Mason wears a piled-up brunette wig that retains a suggestion of period flavor while also doing justice to John Waters' description of Baltimore as "the hairdo capital of the world." The wig suits Mason's grandiose portrayal of this silly woman, whose funniest scene comes when Tony (a devilishly engaging Kevin Daly) misleads her into thinking she's miles from home, when she's actually just 40 yards from her front door.

Other amusing performances are delivered by John McDanolds, as two-faced Marlow, who claims to disdain hypocrisy, yet lets it rule his life; Joseph Riley as Marlow's best friend, Hastings; and Molly Moores as Hastings' beloved Constance.

Theatre Hopkins performs in the Merrick Barn on the Homewood campus of Johns Hopkins University. Show times are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2: 15 p.m. Sundays, through Nov. 15. Tickets are $10 and $12. Call 410-516-7159.

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