ON AND OFF BROADWAY
The Vivian Beaumont, Lincoln Center should be host to the new Stephen Sondheim musical”The Frogs” for a long hopping run. Oddly up-to-date, it is based on Aristophanes’ comedy written in 405 B.C. freely adapted by Burt Shevelove, even more freely adapted by unique Nathan Lane (music and lyrics by ingenious Stephen Sondheim) and choreographed as if by an Athens decree by clever Susan Stroman in an antic mood. It begins as slave and master travel to Hades (a marvelous segment), slows down and then in the second act socks it to ya with ingenuity and pizzazz. I loved it!!
The fun begins when they reach hell. Dionysos asks advice of Herakles, before journeying on the river Styx. “Do we need shots?” he queries, camouflaging himself in a lion’s head and thick club. Both his hilarious slave played by Robert Bart and he arrives in Hades immediately attracted to the skimpily clad Amazon women. Though master counts Viagra among his possessions, he still looks for is lovely wife Ariadne who died too young losing her crown of sparkling gems to the heavens. However this trip is not just a jaunt. Dionysus feels compelled to bring back to earth a great writer to fix the world’s ills. The political slant doubles the current jest when one realizes its origin in 425 B.C.
Spectacularly talented William Ivey Long reflects the abandon in wardrobe attire based on the fact that no one in Hades needs to fear death. Finality is theirs. There seems to be an eternal party “that no one has given” but all are invited to every time someone opens a door upstage or stage right.
The surprising ending is moving and intellectually appealing. In case you wonder about the frogs that like the status quo, Aeschylus did not. That Sondheim’s regal music and identifiable lyrics are purely his style allows us to be in ancient Greece and simultaneously I the present. It’s wacky and wonderful!