For young and aspiring composers and lyricists, A Class Act, which opened last night at the Ambassador Theatre, is a wise and pointed lesson in how to turn life into art. It's also quite an effective warning about how an artist's personal life can interfere with, obstruct, and doom professional pursuits.
For anyone who ever encountered Ed Kleban, on whose life the show is based, A Class Act is a moving and emotionally charged tribute to a man who had an impact on the Broadway musical theatre a generation ago.
For enthusiastic fans of Broadway musical theatre, A Class Act is a delightfully privileged glimpse behind the curtain at how a certain type of musical is created and brought to the stage.
For anyone who just likes a good song, A Class Act introduces us to approximately 20 of Kleban's songs, most of which we've never heard performed professionally before.
If you find yourself in any of these categories, you'll probably jump to your feet at the curtain call and, with tears in your eyes, give it a loud and well deserved standing ovation. If you're not in one of these special groups for whom this musical tribute seems to have been written, you may find yourself asking what all the hoopla is about. You may find it vaguely interesting - what man's life story told honestly isn't interesting? - and you'll like some of the music and performances, but you'll ultimately wonder to yourself why you didn't enjoy it as much as other people in the audience apparently did.
Think of finding yourself at a medical convention, in the audience of a musical tribute to some professionally respected but generally unknown Podiatrist. The Podiatrists in the audience will be loving it, but can you really relate?
Linda Kline and Lonny Price have pieced together a simple and artful book for A Class Act which effectively uses several songs from Kleban's trunk to tell his story. Both Price's direction and performance as Kleban make the story easily accessible. Larry Hochman's orchestrations give the music a classic, timeless quality while staying firmly in period.
Randy Graff (as Sophie) gives the evening an unexpected and profoundly emotional context and clout. Patrick Quinn (as the delightfully acerbic Lehman) makes the performances of the remaining members of the cast pale in comparison.
James Noone's scenic design is a triumph of appropriate theatrical simplicity, which is well served by Kevin Adams' colorful lighting design. Carrie Robbins' costume designs are a tribute to 70s style without ever upstaging the performances.
A Class Act Music and lyrics by Edward Kleban. Book by Linda Kline and Lonny Price. Directed by Lonny Price. Choreographed by Marguerite Derricks. Cast: Lonny Price, Nancy Anderson, Jeff Blumenkrantz, Donna Bullock, Divid Hibbard, Patrick Quinn, Sara Ramirez, and Randy Graff. Scenic design by James Noone. Costume design by Carrie Robbins. Lighting design by Kevin Adams. Sound design by Acme Sound Partners. Orchestrations by Larry Hochman.
Theatre: Ambassador Theatre, 215 West 49th Street between Broadway & 8th Avenue
Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes including one 15 minute intermission
Schedule: Tuesday through Saturday at 8 PM, Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM, Sunday at 3 PM.
Audience: May be inappropriate for children 8 and under.
Ticket prices: $75, $60, and $35. Wednesday Matinees $65, $50, and $30. A $1.25 Facilities Fee will be added to the price of each ticket.
Standing room: $20 - Available only at the Box Office and only when the performance is sold out.
Tickets online: Tele-charge
Tickets by phone: Tele-charge 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: Inside the NY metro area (212) 239-6200, Outside the NY metro area (800) 545-2559
Tickets in person: Box Office hours Monday through Saturday 10 AM to 8 PM, Sunday Noon to 6 PM.
Tickets by snail mail: A Class Act, PO Box 998, Times Square Station, New York, NY 10108-0998. All mail orders must include an additional $1.25 per ticket Facilities Fee.
Tickets or questions by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org