The Sphinx Winx
nytheatre.com review by Leslie Bramm
May 13, 2011
Tifft Productions LLC gives us this delightful new musical. Set in Egypt, it tells the story of an undersexed and overly vain Cleopatra, and her husband Julius Caesar, Rome’s emissary to the Nile region. Seems that JC has failed to pay up and Rome suspects him of stealing from the public coffer to fund his romance with his hard-to-please Queen. He commits some corporate malfeasance, and lavishes his Queen with expensive gifts and promises. To solve this problem, Rome sends Marc Anthony to either collect the money or bring JC to trial. What ensues is a comical story of star-crossed lovers, jealousy, greed, and a winking Sphinx. One of the most charming qualities about The Sphinx Winx is its referencing of popular culture. Not a chance is missed to lampoon and make “pun” of political figures and even other contemporary American musicals.
The book and lyrics are written by Philip Capice, Anne Hitchner, Kenneth Hitchner, Jr., and Robert Keuch. In this case all these cooks did not spoil the mix, as both are clever and laugh out loud funny.
The music is by Kenneth Hitchner, Jr. and W. Hamlin Neely. Good catchy tunes and lots of them. My favorite song was the hopeful “I Sail for Home,” featuring a beautiful two-part harmony between Marc Anthony and his comrade Marius.
All the actors have good voices. The songs are meant to be sung campy, and each singer milks their exaggerations.
Matthew Hamel’s direction is what you need for a fast paced musical. The set has multiple entrances and exits. Hamel paces it like farce and it works.
Set design by Robert Andrew Kovach is terrific. Part comic book, with vibrant colors, it is also changeable with spinning pillars and a secret entrance. The large Sphinx façade can’t help but make you smile. Gail Baldoni must have worked very hard to create the period costumes and it shows. She has a great sense of detail.
The cast all play multiple roles save for Erika Amato’s Cleopatra. As the queen Amato is serpentine and seductive. As Crecia, Rebecca Riker is a good romantic heroine, but it’s her Sarah Palin in the court room scenes that almost steals the show. Bruce Sabath’s Julius Caesar is a schticky character and Sabath is good in this little nod to vaudeville. Bret Shuford’s Marc Anthony is dutiful and starry-eyed with his love for Crecia. Shuford’s pleasant tenor voice and wit make him an enjoyable leading man. Lunia is the slighted daughter of Caesar. Beth Cheryl Tarnow plays her with a combination of obnoxiousness and silliness, and is very funny. Ryan Williams as the Soothsayer and play’s narrator is agile and animated. His mobile face allows him to play the fool, the slime ball, and the soldier. He does all unabashed.
I had had a crappy day the night I saw this play and for those fast-paced 90 minutes The Sphinx Winx took my mind off everything.