“The Golden Apple”
City Center Encores!
City Center Encores! just presented one of its most ambitious and wildly successful concerts in its staging of the 1954 cult musical, “The Golden Apple,” with book and lyrics by John Latouche and music by Jerome Moross. One of the challenges of doing this show is that “The Golden Apple” is through-sung, like an opera, with no dialogue. What was particularly amazing about the Encores! “The Golden Apple” is that, even with a limited rehearsal time, none of the performers used scripts (which is always an option at Encores!) and all of them were letter perfect delivering John Latouche’s intricate, often witty lyrics.
What’s more, there was a great deal of dancing in the show (the spirited choreography was staged by Joshua Bergasse), and the production also featured a huge orchestra onstage and an over forty member cast of actors. “The Golden Apple” is the kind of musical that is perfect for City Center Encores!, simply because the chance of seeing a full stage production of this show is pretty slim to none. So, for those lucky few who got to see “The Golden Apple” at City Center, the treasures in this show sparkled brightly from beginning to end.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the Encores! “The Golden Apple” was the fact that it was directed so smoothly and so effectively by Michael Berresse, who is generally known more as an actor than a director. Still, Berresse managed to keep this show moving at a swift pace, as well as bringing out the best in his actors and the best in the material itself. Considering how demanding “The Golden Apple” truly would be for anyone to direct, this concert could easily have fallen apart and become a train wreck. But Michael Berresse dazzled with the ability to stage a show like this so wonderfully, as well as eliciting such superlative performances from his cast. Just based on how well this concert went, Berresse deserves the opportunity to direct many more shows in the future.
And, speaking of the company of actors, all of the principal performers got their chance to shine. To be honest, I’ve been waiting for Encores! to stage “The Golden Apple” for over twenty years, so I had originally pictured such performers as Rebecca Luker and Debbie Gravitte being cast in the show, but, of course, that was twenty years ago. Still, the cast assembled for this concert of “The Golden Apple” was pretty stellar.
For me, the most outstanding performer in the show was Lindsay Mendez as Helen. This was a role that Kaye Ballard originated and Mendez proved to be pretty grand, especially singing a luxurious “Lazy Afternoon” and opening the show with “Nothing Ever Happens in Angel’s Roost.” As the hero Ulysses, Ryan Silverman was magnificent, delivering all of his songs in a rich voice and being suitably good-looking and rugged in this part. As his wife, Penelope, Mikaela Bennett astonished with the fact that, not only did she sing and act the role faultlessly, but she was also making her professional stage debut. Let’s hope that Bennett gets offered many more musical parts in New York.
Ashley Brown, Alli Mauzey, and Carrie Compere were each great in dual roles and Barton Cowperthwaite was terrific in the dance part of Paris, who does no singing or speaking in the show. Cowperthwaite was devilishly handsome and dashing and it was easy to see why Lindsay Mendez’s Helen would pursue him. In the Jack Whiting role of Mayor Hector, Jason Kravits was excellent, especially in his number with the fine Jeff Blumenkrantz in the second act, “Scylla and Charybdis.” About the only principal actor who fell a little short in “The Golden Apple” was N’Kenge as Mother Hare. This actress wasn’t quite powerful enough in this witchlike role, but she more than made up for it in Act II, as she also played the sinuous and delectable Circe.
Rob Berman did a spectacular job as music director, leading the glorious orchestra, and it must be stated that both the musicians and the actors did full justice to the endless wonders in Jerome Morross and John Latouche’s brilliant score. It is almost amazing to realize that “The Golden Apple” has finally been staged at City Center Encores!, and that the concert was pulled off so terrifically, on nearly every level. As a musical theatre fanatic who had memorized every word and note in this show, I can honestly say that this concert production of “The Golden Apple” was definitely worth the wait.
“The Golden Apple” was staged at City Center in New York City from May 10 – 14, 2017.
Photo: (L-R): Barton Cowperthwaite and Lindsay Mendez
Photo by Sara Krulwich