Review: Life is for Living: Conversations with Coward at Life Is For Living| a Curtainup Review
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Life Is For Living: Conversations with Coward
"There are probably greater painters than Noel, greater novelists than Noel, greater librettists, composers of music, singers, greater dancers, comedians, tragedians, stage producers, film directors, cabaret artists and TV stars. If there are, they are twelve different people. Only one man combined all twelve labels The Master." — spoken quote from Lord Louis Mountbatten.
Life for Living
Simon Green (Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp)
The audience for this intimate entertainment is seated, or rather squeezed, around small cocktail tables in the smallest space at 59E59. The thought of survival in an emergency becomes a question even before the start of Simon Green's otherwise reverential and rewarding cabaret-styled act in adoration of the ascribed "master" of all things theatrical Sir Noel Coward.

It takes only a minute to forget that you feel as if (as my companion described it) "we've been stuffed into an ice-cube tray" and surrender to selections mainly taken from Coward's letters, prose, poetry, and diaries —and of course his plentiful canon of songs, purposely chosen for their unfamiliarity than we might otherwise expect.

Mr. Green is a tall, nice-looking gentleman with a poise, presence and demeanor that is tailor-made to represent, if not impersonate, the aura of Sir Noel. He segues from text to tune (a couple of dozen) with artful and obligatory precision and sings well enough and at times very well, indeed.

It is, however, in the subtext of Green's special material that we see Coward's views of a changing world. This is most evident in his ability to give some of the sharp turns and clever twists in the mostly mirthful lyrics a touch of melancholy. Such brittle and, indeed, comical ditties as "What's Going to Happen to the Tots," and "I've Been to a Marvelous Party" and "I'm Here for a Short Visit" suddenly become astute social commentaries even as they remain insistently quaint.

Green gets major and marvelous assist from his accompanist and composer David Shrubsole who doesn't miss a beat following Green's breezy and purposely fluid narrative. Shrubsole's own lilting music and lyrics are woven seamlessly into the program that also somewhat mysteriously but not without intent, interpolates songs by Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, and Cole Porter; also the less known Ivor Novello, with the latter the closest to him in sentiment if not snap.

The opportunity for Green to snap came during his performance at the Sunday matinee I attended when a woman seated in the first row continued to talk during a song. Green stopped and glared at her and then gently asked her "Is anything wrong ...(silence) You're speaking. I'm doing a show." He apologized to the audience and brought us back to Coward's world without a ripple. A line from one of the amusing songs contributed by Shrubsole defined that moment beautifully: "Everybody thinks they're someone, including me."

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Life is for Living: Conversations with Coward by Simon Green and David Shrubsole Researched by Jason Morell

Cast: Simon Green and David Shrubsole
59E59 Theaters
Running Time: 1 hour 10 minutes no intermission
Tickets: $25.00
Performances: Tue, Wed, Thu 7:30, Fri 5:30 & 8:30 Sat 2:30 & 5:30, Sun 3:30
From 12/13/16 Opened 12/18/16 Ends 01/01/17
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 12/18/16

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