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Theater: The Apple Tree

By Iris Fanger / January 12, 2007



In three short stories, Kristin Chenoweth gets a showy triple role as the quintessential Everywoman – Eve, with her red apple; the indulged medieval Princess Barbara; and the updated Cinderella called Ella-Passionella, prancing about in the revival of the 1966 Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick three-act musical now running at Studio 54. Chenoweth is quite a package herself: not quite five feet tall, topped by a mop of blond hair but sporting an outsized voice and stage presence. The star atop the Rockefeller Center holiday tree does not twinkle as brightly as she does.

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The gimmick is the staging of the girl-meets-boy tales: Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Frank R. Stockton's "The Lady or the Tiger?" and Jules Feiffer's "Passionella." Chenoweth channels the memorable performance of Barbara Harris who originated the roles, especially as Ella, the woe-begone chimney sweep who dreams of life as a movie star. The men would be wallpaper, except for their charisma – matinee-idol Brian d'Arcy James as the dullwitted tripartite lover, and the suave Marc Kudish, memorable as the Snake, and then Narrator. A small orchestra handles the clever but largely forgettable score. The rainbow-colored verve of Jess Goldstein's costumes adds imagination to an otherwise bare-bones production. Grade: B+

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