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Grand Hotel ~ The Musical ~ Signature Theatre

Jordan Wright
April 11, 2019 

The ensemble of Grand Hotelat Signature Theatre. Photo by Margot Schulman

Dapper men in dinner jackets and ladies luxuriously swathed in furs and jewels has a certain mysterious fascination for us all.  In Playwright Ayad Akhtar’s Grand Hotel, guests of this deluxe Berlin hotel reveal that there is more to glamour than meets the eye.  In the hotel’s opulent Art Deco era lobby we meet aging prima ballerina Madame Elizaveta Grushinskaya arriving for her final grand tour with her faithful companion, Raffaela; Flaemmchen, a pretty down-at-the-heels ingénue; Baron Felix von Gaigern, a handsome grifter; Colonel-Doctor Otternschlag, a world-weary doctor; General Director Preysing, a corporate tycoon with an uncertain future; and Otto Kringelein, a big-hearted Jewish accountant with a terminal illness.  For these peripatetic travelers, it’s all about money – keeping it or finding it – and enjoying the luxe life.  What they all have in common is the need to be loved.

Solomon Parker III (Jimmy 2), NickiElledge (Flaemmchen), Ian Anthony Coleman (Jimmy 1) and the ensemble of Grand Hotelat Signature Theatre. Photo by Margot Schulman

Twenty-one musical numbers backdrop both their amours and their tragedies as they find themselves in ever-threatening financial circumstances.  Will Otto live to find happiness, will Elizabeta revive her career, will the Baron find deeper meaning, and will Flaemmchen find stardom?  How they evolve as people is the real story behind this glamorous idyll.

Natascia Diaz (Elizaveta Grushinskaya) in Grand Hotelat Signature Theatre. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

Director Eric Schaeffer pulls out all the stops with a fabulous set graced with two winding staircases, top-notch dancers and character actors with Broadway-worthy voices that fulfill his vision of transporting us to the age of the Roaring 20’s in a city well known for sophistication and decadent excess.

Nicki Elledge (Flaemmchen) and Nkrumah Gatling (Baron Felix von Gaigern). Photo by C. Stanley Photography

Some of the most memorable musical scenes come during moments of truthfulness and tenderness as between Elizaveta and the Baron in the number “Love Can’t Happen” and her solo dance in “Bonjour Amour”.  And, not to be understated, is the sensational dancing of the two Jimmys in Act One’s “Maybe My Baby Loves Me” with Flaemmchen, and Act Two’s “The Grand Charleston” with the ensemble and “We’ll Take a Glass Together” performed alongside Kringelein, the Baron and the ensemble.

Bobby Smith (Otto Kringelein) and Nicholas McDonough (Erik) in Grand Hotelat Signature Theatre. Photo by C. Stanley Photography

The darker side of working at this posh hotel is not left out but circumscribed by the gritty reality of below stairs workers engulfed in steam heat rising from on-stage grates, and by the precarious job security of Erik, a young concierge forbidden from leaving his post as he awaits the birth of his son.

It’s a big story with multi-dimensional characters who surprise us at every turn.  See it for the music, the dancing and the glitz.

Starring Bobby Smith as Otto Kringelein; Natascia Diaz as Elizaveta Grushinskaya; Kevin McAllister as General Director Preysing; Nkrumah Gatling as Baron Felix von Gaigern; Lawrence Redmond as Colonel-Doctor Otternschlag; Crystal Mosser as Raffaela; Nicki Elledge as Flaemmchen; Ian Anthony Coleman as Jimmy 1 and Zinnowitz; Solomon Parker III as Jimmy 2; Ben Gunderson as Erik; Victor Kempski as Rohna and Witt; Marie Rizzo as Trude and Tootsie 1; Gregory Matheu as Sandor; and ensemble.

Book by Luther Davis; Music and Lyrics by Robert Wright & George Forrest; Based on Vicki Baum’s Grand Hotel; Additional Music & Lyrics by Maury Yeston; Scenic Design by Paul Tate DePoo III; Costume Design by Robert Perdziola; Lighting Design by Colin K. Bills; Sound Design by Ryan Hickey; Choreography by Kelly Crandall D’Amboise.  Conducted by Evan Rees.

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