The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings


SEARCH CurtainUp



Etcetera and
Short Term Listings



LA/San Diego






Free Updates
NYC Weather
A CurtainUp Review


Being an amorous tidbit
Can lead to the why-did-I-do-what-I-did bit .

--- Kenward Elmslie
Elmo Kenward
Elmo Kenward
Kenward Elmslie has done some composing. He also sings a little. But more than anything, words are his forte -- whether as a poet, essayist, novelist or lyricist and librettist. It's probably because his work has been all over the creative landscape that he's reached his seventies without ever having established a firm toehold in one area, with at least a few signature songs to give him more public recognition. But leave it to the York theater's artistic director James Morgan to create a homage to Elmslie's work, and making the honoree himself part of the resulting show.

LingoLand is billed as a musical revue and although some of Elmslie's contributions are spoken as well as sung, the emphasis is on the words written for various popular songs, musicals and operas. Heading the list of composers is Claibe Richardson represented with excepts from two little known musicals, Lola and The Grass Harp. Among others there are opera composers Ned Rorem and Thomas Passatieri with samples from Miss Julie and The SeaGull.

If revue seems too frivolous a tag for this tribute to a Jack-of -all-genres word lover's broad-based achievements over half a century, think of it as a collage or an assemblage. Call it what you will, but credit Morgan for having pulled the many bits and pieces together in a tasteful production with a sextet of performers who handle the sketch material with charm and skill and whose voices are up to the challenges of the operatic music as well as the pop tunes. Morgan's simple but workmanlike set establishes the focus on language with random words all over the stage and across the floor.

Elmslie is a charmer who contributes occasional songs and poetry readings from the side of the stage with modesty but great presence. Suzy Benzinger's color coordinated costumes create an ensemble look for the three women and three men, and Mary Jo Dondlinger lighting is often stunning. Julio Soler's multimedia work adds real visual zip to the show, especially his amusing animations for Claibe Richadson's update for a number called "Brazil."

Ultimately, the material is too scattershot for LingoLand to have a real sense of unity. It's a case, not uncommon to showcasing the work of one person and many collaborators that prevents the parts from really jelling. This problem is not helped by having bits from Elmsley's "Bare Bones," a long ode to his long-time companion who died of AIDS interspersed throughout. It's a moving poem but it seems to belong in another show.

As with every show at the York, even those that don't become hits and transfer to other theaters (e.g. The Musical of Musicals), you never really feel that you've wasted your time or money. LingoLand will give you, as it did me, a chance to become better acquainted with this sensitive and talented writer. The proverbial better late than never was never truer.

Written by Words by Kenward Elmsley
Music: Claibe Richardson, Jack Beeson, Steven Dolginoff, Willian Elliott, Kenward Elmslie, Marvin Fisher, Andrea Gerle, Doug Katsaros, Thomas Pasatierie, Ned Rorem, Joshua Rosenblum, and Steven Taylor
Director and Scenic Designer: James Morgan
Cast: Kenward Elmslie, Jane Bodle, Jason Dula, Jeanne Lehman, Steve Routman, Lauren Shealy
Costume Design: Suzy Benzinger
Multimedia Design: Julio Soler
Lighting Design: Mary Jo Dondlinger
Art: Joe Brainard, Red Grooms, Larry Rivers, Alex Katz, and others Music Direction & Orchestrations: Matt Castle Music Supervisor: Jack Lee Musical Staging: Janet Watson Musicians: Matt Castle/conductor/piano/synthethizer; Olivier Manchon/ guitars/violin; Marie Tranchida/ cello; Harry Hassell/woodwinds; Ben Fox/percussions
Running time: 2 hours, including one intermission
York Theater at St Peter's, 619 Lexington Avenue (Entrance on 54th St, east of Lexington Ave) 212-868-4444
Mon, Wed - Sat at 8pm; Wed, Sat at 2:30pm; Sun at 3pm
Tickets: $55; $20 students on day of performance
2/07/05 to 3/20/05; opening 2/28/05
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on February 28th performance
Tales From Shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

Mendes at the Donmar
Our Review

At This Theater Cover
At This Theater

Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide

Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam

metaphors dictionary cover
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

The Broadway Theatre Archive


©Copyright 2005, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from