High society, low-life schemes and love

MetroStages worldwide premiere of Glimpses of the Moon is based on social commentator Edith Whartons witty and incisive novel of the same title. It focuses on a hilarious hustle set in Manhattan and the posh watering holes of Maine, the Hamptons and Newport, Rhode Island during the rip-roaring Jazz Age. 

Down-on-her-luck flapper Suzy Branch and brainy, but flat-busted Harvard archaeologist Nick Lansing have caviar tastes on a bathtub gin budget. Together they concoct a calculated subterfuge to platonically wed, amassing enough pawn-worthy wedding swag and visits to the palatial digs of their well-heeled friends to last an entire year. During that time the unscrupulous but adorable duo expect to divorce and marry up.  

But, heres the expected rub: They fall madly in love with each other.

Notwithstanding the predictability of such familiar characters, this fast-paced musical is a clever, sophisticated and captivating dish served up with a huge scoop of humor.  

The music, on par with Sondheims best, supported the plot with 16 dazzling numbers, like, Cigars, a moralistic musing on whether or not to pawn a hosts box of Havana cigars. Its a conundrum filled with catchy lines. In the song their host, Streffy, retorts, You drank gin from my bar. Why not take my cigars!

Dinner Party with Friends, a jaunty ensemble piece, channels Noel Coward and F. Scott Fitzgerald and his East Egg swells with a riotous seated dance as guests chronicle the social pressures of pretense and how to maintain it.

Outstanding are Helen Hayes award-winner Natascia Diaz as the spunky and sensitive Suzy, whose singing and dancing are pitch perfect; Gia Mora, as the well-married seductress, Ellie Vanderlyn, who brims with polish and stylish snap; Stephen Schmidt, as the suave and cuckolded Nelson Vanderlyn, who tackles the part so effortlessly it seems as though the part was written just for him; and Lauren Coco Cohn a veteran of Legally Blonde 2 and Desperate Housewives, who as a hugely talented comedic character actor plays three roles including the awkward heiress, Coral Hicks, and the conspiratorial maid.  

Another winning performance comes from Matthew Anderson as Winthrop Streffy Strefford. Anderson is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed version of Nathan Lane who tears up the stage with his hoofing and vamping. Look for him to return in MetroStages A Broadway Christmas Carol beginning its run on November 18. 

Although Sam Ludwigs portrayal of Nick Lansing appeared a bit tentative in the frothy pace, he ditched his hesitancy in his duets, and his pure voice was a perfect harmonic counterpoint.

The catchy songs are supported by the cool flourishes of veteran musicologist and pianist, Darius Smith; woodwind/reed doubler, Brent Birkhead who this summer gained recognition from Downbeat Magazine as Best Blues/Pop/Rock soloist; and D.C. native Greg Holloway on percussion, who recently backed Pam Parker at Washingtons Blues Alley.

Most recently the partnership of John Mercurios music and Tajlei Leviss book and lyrics had only showcased their numbers at New Yorks famed Algonquin Hotel, where it was performed in the Oak Room over a period of several months. The hotel, which was the daily lunch spot of the illustrious Round Table, a coterie of elite writers, editors and wry wits who gathered there in the 20s, has a cabaret where Glimpses of the Moon was first shown and explains the appearance in the second act of the dazzling torch singer, played by Rosalind White.

Glimpses of the Moon runs through October 17.  For tickets and information for the 2010-2011 season call: 1-800-494-8497 or visit www.metrostage.org.

Author Jordan Wright also runs Whisk and Quill and can be reached at jordan@whiskandquill.com. 

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