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Encores! Golden Apple

"The Odyssey" is the mother of all story. It's the first romance, the first road movie, the first sci-fi tale, the first biopic... Odysseus (Ulysses) has gone over very well in America; he always has. One reason is that he's a comeback kid. Americans love the archetypal story of somebody who undergoes great ordeals and ultimately triumphs in a violent showdown. It's the plot of every Clint Eastwood movie ever made. — Classicist Edith Hall.

But as sophisticated as The Golden Apple was, it was simple, too. It's to love the you that's me and the me that's you -- I mean how you can not understand that? — Kaye Ballard who played Helen in the original production.
Lindsay Mendez asHelen and Barton Cowperthwaite as Paris (© Joan Marcus)
Blending Homer's Iliad and The Odyssey with American folklore and early 20th century zeitgeist, The Golden Apple was lauded as a musical theater milestone. It was also a spectacular Broadway flop. Critics loved it, audiences not so much.

The 1954 show that earned raves for its glorious score, clever lyrics and broad but sly humor, closed after 125 performances. As the 2017 season of City Center's Encores!, final production, Michael Beresse directs the musical omnibus as a fast-moving blast of Americana via classical Greece.

An off-beat, sung-through operetta by Jerome Moross with clever lyrics by John Latouche, The Golden Apple turns the classics into Americana — a non-linear travelogue through America, past, present and a present mood in no particular order. Greece becomes Washington state's Angel's Roost, a town in which they claim, "Nothing ever happens." There is excitement right now, however, with a welcome home to Spanish-American War hero, Ulysses (Ryan Silverman). Waiting is his young wife, Penelope (Mikaela Bennett), parades and a home-town fair, with the traditional a bake-off. Local soothsayer, Mother Hare (N'Kenge), promises a lucky apple made from gleaming golden wire for the winner and judging the contest is Paris, a dapper traveling salesman who arrives in a hot-air balloon.

Married to the middle-aged sheriff, Menelaus (Jeff Blumenkrantz) Helen is a frisky young gal but too reckless for small town life. Played by Lindsay Mendez with a tangy voice and a twinkle in her eye, Helen is not the siren of lore but popular because 'she's always willin'. In fact, she's willing enough to join Paris in his hot air balloon and fly to the nearby city of Rhododendron. Desperate, Menelaus urges Ulysses to find Helen and bring her home so Ulysses and pals are off on another jaunt, one not to end for ten years.

With Rob Berman's full orchestra on stage providing a panoply of 20th century American music, Joshua Bergasse's choreography creates rhythms of jazz, cakewalks, hillbilly and soft-shoe. He brings a reminiscence of the rowdy energy from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, muscular dances for women with twirling grace and athletic, limber men. Barton Cowperthwaite as Paris never speaks or sings but is poetically eloquent in his leaps, balletic stretches and graceful movements.

A lengthy Act II vaudeville segment is based on the seven deadly sins, including "Scylla and Charybdis," a parody of "Gallagher and Sheen" with stock market dealers. Ashley Brown (( Mary Poppins ) as Madame Calypso, "Nympho megalo ego dipso Maniac", tempts the rescuers to meet the local temptresses. Yet more temptation comes from "Goona Goona" with South Seas hula-type sinuous slithering sirens in clinging scarlet silk.

Mendez ( Significant Other ) sings the only standard from the show, the contemporary sound of, "Lazy Afternoon." Most memorable is the ballad, "It's the Going Home Together," sung by Penelope and Ulysses, with an insinuating melody that lingers in the mind. Ryan Silverman ( Side Show ) is a hunky Ulysses with a lusty baritone In her professional stage debut as Penelope, Mikaela Bennett possesses a celestial soprano that suggests future stardom. Encores' cast of 40 is top-notch in this long neglected cult show.

The beat goes on with Beresse's direction and Bergasse's choreography. Allen Moyer's primitive painting creates an early American scenic design. Always imaginative costume designer, William Ivey Long delineates different periods, including the 1920's cobalt fringe dress for Helen. Ulysses and ensemble look like jivey '40s hepcats delivering, "Store-Bought Suit" in their new neon-trimmed suits. Wrapped in colorful swags of cloth, N'Kenge ( Motown, the Musical ) makes grand entrances as Circe and Mother Hare.

Ulysses returns to Penelope who hasn't had a great time during his ten-year spree. Egged on by the town's women, she berates Ulysses. "What did you expect?... I got along without you so you had better get along, too!" Reflecting 1950's mores, Penelope finally calms down and the show ends with the couple's optimistic new view of their lives with, "We've Just Begun."

The Golden Apple is an ambitious production, if not a great audition pleaser.
Musical Numbers
Act One
  • Overture
  • Nothin' Ever Happens in Angel's Roost – Lindsay Mendez, Carrie Compere, Ashley Brown, Alli Mauzey
  • Mother Hare's Seance – N'Kenge
  • My Love Is on the Way – Mikaela Bennett
  • Our Noble Boys in Blue – Ensemble
  • It Was a Glad Adventure – Ryan Silverman and Heroes
  • Come Along, Boys –Ensemble
  • It's the Going Home Together – Ryan Silverman and Mikaela Bennett
  • Helen Is Always Willin' – Lindsay Mendez and Ensemble
  • Introducin' Mr. Paris – Ensemble
  • The Judgement of Paris – Carrie Compere, Ashley Brown, Alli Mauzey – N'Kenge
  • Lazy Afternoon – Lindsay Mendez
  • Departure for Rhododendron – Ensemble
Act Two
  • My Picture in the Papers – Lindsay Mendez and Ensemble
  • Taking of Rhododendron – Ryan Silverman and Ensemble
  • Hector's Song – Jason Kravitz
  • Windflowers – Mikaela Bennett
  • Store-bought Suit – Ryan Silverman and Ensemble
  • Calypso –Ashley Brown, Jason Kravitz, Ryan Silverman and Ensemble
  • Scylla and Charybdis – Jason Kravitz and Jeff Blumenkrantz
  • Goona-Goona – Carrie Compere, Ryan Silverman and Ensemble
  • Doomed, Doomed, Doomed – Alli Mauzey, Ryan Silverman and Men
  • Circe – N'Kenge and the Ensemble
  • Ulysses's Soliloquy – Ryan Silverman and Ensemble
  • Little Sewing Bee – Mikaela Bennett and Ensemble
  • Penelope's Tirade – Mikaela Bennett
  • We've Just Begun – Ryan Silverman and Mikaela Bennett

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The Golden Apple Book: John Latouche
Music and Lyrics: music Jerome Moross and lyrics by John Latouche
Director: Michael Berresse
Musical Direction: Rob Berman
Choreography: Joshua Bergasse
Cast: Mikaela Bennett as Penelope, Ashley Brown as Mrs. Juniper/Madame Calypso, Carrie Compere as Lovey Mars/The Siren, Jason Kravits as Menelaus/Scylla, Alli Mauzey as Miss Minerva Oliver/The Scientist, Lindsay Mendez as Helen, N'Kenge as Mother Hare, Ryan Silverman as Ulysses, and Rasta Thomas as Paris. The ensemble includes Florrie Bagel, Daniel Berryman, Michael Buchanan, Brian Cali, Max Chernin, Andrew Cristi, Laura Darrell, Dionne Figgins, Hannah Florence, Tamar Greene, Jeff Heimbrock, Leah Horowitz, Monté J. Howell, Donald Jones Jr., Andrea Jones-Sojola, Naomi Kakuk, Evan Kasprzak, Reed Kelly, Bruce Landry, Quentin Oliver Lee, Brandon Leffler, Michael X. Martin, Skye Mattox, Sarah Meahl, Justin Prescott, Lindsay Roberts, Sarrah Strimel, Joseph Torello, Kathy Voytko, and Nicholas Ward.
Set Design: Allen Moyer
Costume Design: William Ivey Long
Lighting Design: Ken Billington
Sound Design: Dan Moses Schreier
Running Time: 2 hours. 20 minutes. One intermission
Theatre: City Center (131 West 55th Street, between 6th & 7th Avenues). 
Tickets: Start at $35. CityTix 212-581-1212
Performances: Wed.,Thurs. at. 7:30pm. Fri., Sat. at 8pm. Sun. at 7pm. Sat., Sun. matinees at 2pm.
Opens: 05/10/17. Closes: 05/14/17
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors based on performance 05/11/17

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