Broadway and the Bard

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Photo: Broadway and the Bard Review
While Len Cariou is back in the spotlight as Boston’s Cardinal Law in the Oscar-nominated film “Spotlight,” this magnetic performer has been thrilling audiences for approximately 50 years in both Shakespearean classics and now-classic musicals. So it makes perfect sense that Cariou has cannily and cleverly combined his passion in “Broadway & The Bard,” a highly diverting 80-minute solo show at Theatre Row’s Lion Theatre that takes advantage of the actor’s many talents.

While Cariou’s baritone voice has dimmed in power from his “Sweeney Todd” days, it can still boom when needed, and his facility with the Bard’s language makes one wish that someone would cast him in one of the umpteenth Shakespearean production New York sees every year.

The meaning of the show’s title quickly become self-evident. Along with his collaborators Barry Kleinbort (also the show’s director) and Mark Janas (also the show’s musical director), Cariou has paired some of Shakespeare’s best-known monologues with corresponding songs on the same theme. But he hasn’t done so in the most expected fashion. For example, after a fine rendering of a series of Petruchio’s speeches from “Taming of the Shrew” (a role he has performed three times on stage), Cariou does not, as you would think, belt out a number from “Kiss Me Kate”; instead, he delivers a very sensitive and soulful rendition of “How to Handle a Woman” from “Camelot.”

Truth alert: the song/speech list isn’t given out until after the show, so if you really want to be surprised by what Cariou does, stop here. Otherwise, here are some of my favorite moments from the show: an abridged version of the “Unto the breech once more” speech from “Henry V” followed by the title song from “Applause”; Marc Antony’s “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” speech, followed by a well put-together medley that includes “Something Wonderful,” “Sometimes a Day Goes By,” and “There’s Always One You Can’t Forget,” and most especially, Jacques’ “Seven Ages of Man” speech from “As You Like It” intertwined with a gorgeous version of “September Song,” that will speak to anyone over 50.

Oh yes, “Kiss Me Kate” does show up at the very end, in exactly the song you’re expecting, which Cariou pulls off with gusto. But you needn’t brush up on your Shakespeare to enjoy this outing; just sit back and take it all in.
By Brian Scott Lipton

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Open/Close Dates
Opening 2/4/2016
Closing 3/6/2016

Theatre Info
Lion Theater
336 West 20th Street
New York, NY 10011