Politics and Pokmon light up Broadway marquees

OK, so the current US presidential race between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush may be a bit dull. But old-fashioned political drama - as well as comedy and melodrama - is alive and well on Broadway in the star-studded revival of Gore Vidal's 1960 Tony-nominated play "The Best Man."

The play - retitled Gore Vidal's The Best Man and showing at the Virginia Theatre through Dec. 31 - was also made into a hit movie with Henry Fonda in 1964.

Vidal's playbook was inspired in part by the real-life political battle between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. Its behind-the-scenes glimpses of deception and honor are not just intriguing but electric, character-driven theater.

It stars Spalding Gray as a patrician and sporadically principled US Secretary of State who is running against Chris Noth, a colorful, rougher-hewn US Senator whose blind ambition seems to give him the upper hand in the White House bid. "Gore Vidal's The Best Man" is set almost entirely in hotel suites during a national political convention. It's placed in an era when these conventions still packed plenty of surprises.

As the candidates battle for the nomination and try to retain their integrity - while alternately plotting to reveal each other's secret pasts - Charles Durning as the current US president fights for both his life (his character is dying in the play) and his legacy. Will his support of one particular candidate be politics as usual or a renewal of his own best instincts as a politician and a human being? And to his immense acting credit, Mr. Durning's performance ranks right up with Brian Dennehy's in the outstanding revival of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" last season.

"I love this play. It's real theater. It doesn't shout at you like 'Cats,' " Playbill online writer David Lefkowitz said happily during a preview performance of "Best Man."

And together, Durning, Gray, and Noth are three of the best actors Broadway has seen in a long time.

Move over Disney! Make way for Radio City Entertainment, Nintendo, and 4 Kids Entertainment, the producers of Pokmon Live!

"Gotta Catch 'em All!" the well-known Pokmon theme song, describes how this spellbinding children's musical "Pokmon Live!" catches some of the spirit and flavor of the best moments of Disney's "The Lion King" and "Beauty and the Beast," and Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Cats" and "Phantom of the Opera." It plays at Radio City Music Hall through Oct. 1.

But a warning to children: "Pokmon Live!" may not be suitable for some parents. Long on fantastic special effects and songs - many from the bestselling Pokmon album "2 Be a Master" - "Pokmon Live!" is short on plot.

What story line there is revolves around Ash, Misty, and Brock and their giant-size Pokmon kid-friendly monsters like Pikachu, Meowth, and Jigglypuff, battling arch rivals Team Rocket.

"Pokmon Live!" nevertheless raises the bar for big-budget children's musicals that have flooded stages from New York to California in recent years with rousing songs and dazzling special effects, coupled with filmed adventures of the cartoon characters projected on three giant video screens.

Parents may not care if Ash wins his Pokmon trainer's badge, or if lovable electro-powered Pikachu is captured by the bad guys. But judging from the overwhelming reaction of thousands of children at Radio City, "Pokmon Live!" is destined to be a monster hit. (Pun intended - or dare I say, Nintendo-ed.)

"Pokmon Live!" is also scheduled to visit: Chicago, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Miami, Orlando, Fla., Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, among others.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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