Here’s to The Ladies of Off Broadway

 

Carey Mulligan – Melissa Errico – Idina Menzel – Anika Noni Rose

 

Melissa Errico & Stephen Bogardus – On A Clear Day . . .

 

by Brian Scott Lipton

 

Actresses may rightly complain that there are few great roles available to them in Hollywood, but they certainly can’t say the same about Off-Broadway, which is currently providing spectacular showcases for some of the most talented women on the planet. Here’s a handful of fabulous female performances you can catch right now…

One might wonder why the British film star Carey Mulligan is spending every night recounting the ultimately harrowing tale that Dennis Kelly has dreamed up in “Girls & Boys” (at the Minetta Lane Theatre). But given the big smile she sports at the curtain call of this mesmerizing 100-minute monologue, one suspects she takes special joy holding the audience in the palm of her hand each evening. From the moment she begins telling us Kelly’s off-kilter tale of how her life changed drastically from the minute she met her husband-to-be in an Italian airport, Mulligan (or should I say her unnamed character) impresses us with her intelligence, her honesty (expressed sometimes in shockingly vulgar language) and her unwillingness to give into self-pity (which she would certainly be entitled to!) It’s the kind of performance for which the words “tour de force” were invented.

 

Carey Mulligan – Girls & Boys

 

While Melissa Errico has definitely matured from the ingenue we first met in “My Fair Lady,” this superlative singer-actress can still express the kind of naivete necessary for the plum role of Daisy Gamble in Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane’s wacky 1962 musical, “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,” which is being given a pleasing if not completely successful revisal under Charlotte Moore’s guidance at the Irish Repertory Theatre. As the “eccentric” Daisy, Errico shows off a comic flair that few of her previous roles have allowed her to exhibit, along with a believable lack of self-confidence, while she does a perfect 180 as the strong-willed, 17th-century British aristocrat Melinda Welles. More important, she delivers the score’s superb show-stoppers, including the deliciously clever “Hurry, It’s Lovely Up Here,” “What Did I Have That I Don’t Have?” and “The S.S. Bernard Cohn,” with peerless aplomb.

 

Jack Wetherall, Will Brittain, Idina Menzel, Eli Gelb

 

Conversely, Broadway belter par excellence, Idina Menzel, doesn’t sing a single note in Joshua Harmon’s provocative new play “Skintight” (at the Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre). And guess what? It doesn’t matter. She’s simply marvelous as Jodi Isaac, the frustrated, self-absorbed and recently divorced forty-something daughter of a cold-hearted, 70-year-old fashion icon who proves to be far more interested in his 20-something male plaything – or is that lifelong love? – than in her or her offspring. Menzel manages to be hilarious and heartbreaking, often in the same sentence.

 

Anika Noni Rose – Carmen Jones

 

Resplendent in red, Anika Noni Jones almost literally sets the stage aflame as the title character of “Carmen Jones,” the hybrid 1943 musical (with opera music by Georges Bizet and African-American-inspired lyrics by Oscar Hamerstein II) that is being given a stunning new staging by Tony Award winner John Doyle at Classic Stage Company. Tempestous, tantalizing and tragic, Rose effortlessly captures every aspect of the fiery factory worker seeking fun, laughs, good times and a better life (yes, it is like “Sweet Charity”), while also unleashing a soaring soprano not normally emitting from her lips. Dat’s while I call a star turn!

 

 

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