Posted by: Erik_Haagensen 09:43 am EST 11/28/23
In reply to: re: EVENING PRIMROSE on Stage - Chazwaza 05:58 pm EST 11/27/23

Here is what I wrote about it in Back Stage at the time.

Blog Stage - Acting in Film, TV, Theatre - Backstage A Little 'Evening' Music

Sign me up for the Jessica Grové fan club. Last night, in a one-night-only staged-reading presentation of the James Goldman–Stephen Sondheim TV musical “Evening Primrose,” a benefit for St. George’s Society of New York at John Jay College, Grové lit up the stage as Ella, a young woman kept captive since the age of 6 by the shadowy denizens of a Manhattan department store.

And just last month, Grové also stood out opposite Andrea Marcovicci in York Theatre Company’s Musicals in Mufti concert of Alan Jay Lerner and André Previn’s “Coco,” based on the life of Coco Chanel.

Grové’s direct and silvery soprano went straight to the core of Sondheim’s gorgeous “I Remember” and “Take Me to the World,” while at the York she delivered the equally beautiful “Someone on Your Side” (cut from “Coco” the first time around) with artful simplicity. In both cases, she took pretty standard ingénue roles and gave them specificity and weight. Currently, she’s one of the lieder singers on Broadway in “A Little Night Music,” where she also understudies Anne. No offense to the excellent Ramona Mallory, but if Grové ever gets to go on, I’d make a beeline to see it.

The others in the “Primrose” company were no slouches. Sean Palmer made for a dashing Charles, a poet fleeing the world to take up residence in that department store, while Broadway royalty such as Sondra Lee, Carmen de Lavallade, William Duell, and John Cunningham, plus ballet great Frederick Franklin, gave great atmosphere in the relatively small roles of the aging folks living in hiding in the store.

As the doyenne of the group, Candice Bergen compensated for being too young and attractive for the part with impish wit and effortless style. Tony Walton, who later in the evening would receive an Anglo- American Cultural Award from the 240-year-old society, directed with appropriate restraint, and the score was well-served by musical director Mary-Mitchell Campbell and the six-piece orchestration from Sean Patrick Flahaven.

Long termed Sondheim’s “lost musical,” “Evening Primrose” is based on a John Collier short story of the same name and was created for ABC Stage ’67, a show from the 1966-67 season that commissioned one-hour plays and musicals for the small screen, a challenge that Sondheim says intrigued him. And if you’ve seen the black-and-white kinescope of the show (the color videotape has never been found), you’ll be aware of some of the cinematic devices the authors employed that couldn’t be replicated in last night’s semi- staging. I’ve treasured my grainy bootleg copy for many years, but now anyone can see “Evening Primrose,” as a digitally cleaned DVD of that kinescope has just been released. Starring Anthony Perkins, Charmian Carr (Liesl in the film version of “The Sound of Music”), and stage great Dorothy Stickney (the queen in the Julie Andrews TV “Cinderella”), it’s a quirky and disquieting delight, a must for all lovers of musical theater. Don’t miss it.
-- Erik Haagensen

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