Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Steel Pier' and 'Candide' Share Dazzle and Decadence

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Steel Pier' and 'Candide' Share Dazzle and Decadence

Article excerpt

Life is a cabaret, old chum...."

Those words, from the classic musical "Cabaret," have been floating through theatergoers' minds since the new "Steel Pier" and a revival of "Candide" arrived on Broadway recently, within a few days of each other. Both have also garnered multiple Tony Award nominations - 11 for "Steel Pier" and four for "Candide." (The awards are telecast June 1 on CBS.)

Boasting musical numbers by "Cabaret" songsmiths John Kander and Fred Ebb, the lavish "Steel Pier" has an atmospheric setting - a dance hall during the Depression years - that's rather different from the Nazi nightclub where the earlier show took place. But the new production picks up on the same metaphor as its popular predecessor. Human life is a spectacle that's both dazzling and decadent, the story tells us, and its greatest dangers may be inseparable from its most enticing attractions. Perilous temptations were embodied by the Master of Ceremonies in "Cabaret," and in "Steel Pier" they're again associated with an aggressively alluring man. His name is Mick Hamilton, and he earns his living as a smooth-talking host of the grueling dance marathons that were fashionable during the '30s and '40s. He's married to Rita Racine, a frequent contestant in these dance-athons, which care less about skill than the ability to keep strutting for hours every day. Rita hopes a first-place finish in the latest competition will be her ticket to a happier, more relaxing life. Mick has other plans, though, and they don't include Rita's retirement from the marathon circuit. Next on his list is a fake wedding between her and another dancer, designed to boost her popularity and earn dishonest dollars for them both. "Steel Pier" decks out this tawdry tale in a luxurious get-up, filling the stage of the Richard Rodgers Theatre with eye-dazzling scenery and costumes that become more garish by the minute, culminating in a wedding scene with bridesmaids wearing cellophane gowns. The acting is comparatively tasteful but still packs plenty of energy, especially when Karen Ziemba and Debra Monk (see story, right) are in the spotlight as Rita and her crusty old mentor. …

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