John Stevens
John Stevens
We are among the minority of Americans who do not watch the TV mega-hit American Idol. So hearing that a finalist from the show's third season, John Stevens, had been booked for this week at Feinstein's at the Regency, we were curious to see what all the screaming was about. We didn't know a thing about Stevens except that he's 17 years old. We expected to hear someone sing pop music really loud.

Well, were we surprised! Fronting a seven-piece band, Stevens opened his mouth and the sound of Frank Sinatra came out. It's not an impersonation per se, but he does sound eerily like Ol' Blue Eyes. (If you don't believe us, you can hear for yourself when his album Red is released on June 28.) Stevens opened with "Come Fly With Me" and went on to perform a wide variety of tunes that Sinatra recorded, including "All of Me" and "Just in Time."

But, again, Stevens is only 17. He sings the words to these songs without really understanding what they mean. For instance, he performs "You Don't Know Me," a devastating song about unrequited love, with less passion than Jim Nabors (who actually did it rather well). On the other hand, Stevens is entirely professional, utterly poised, and extremely well-prepared. But there's one more thing more to consider: Paying a $15 cover to catch a talented kid with lots of promise at Don't Tell Mama or Danny's computes, whereas paying Feinstein's prices ($45 cover plus a $40 minimum) to do the same seems totally out of whack. And do you really want to pay that much to see the guy who came in third?

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Mandy Patinkin
Mandy Patinkin
Oh, Mandy!

Mandy Patinkin brought his show Mamaloshen to Carnegie Hall on June 16 to help raise money for the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre, the last Yiddish-speaking theater company in the United States. The performance was a lovefest between Patinkin and an audience that took particular relish in this hot dog. For the finale, a huge chorus of children joining the star on stage to sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

The point was unmistakable: Yiddish is hardly a dead language when members of the youngest generation -- and a multi-cultural one, at that -- sing in its uniquely expressive sounds. If only the entire benefit had been so entertaining; the first act was way too speech-heavy. Carnegie Hall isn't a place for talking, it's a place for singing!

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Kate Burton, John Dossett, and Lynn Redgravein The Constant Wife
(Photo © Joan Marcus)
Kate Burton, John Dossett, and Lynn Redgrave
in The Constant Wife
(Photo © Joan Marcus)
A Constant Delight

W. Somerset Maugham is better known today as a novelist than as a playwright, so it's quite a treat that his farsighted comedy The Constant Wife has been exquisitely revived by the Roundabout Theater. Here is a play that begins as an amusing chestnut from the early part of the 20th century and then evolves (that word is not lightly chosen) into a clever, emotionally grounded, feminist comedy. One reason it remains so effective -- and funny -- today is that for all the characters' talk about what is fair and right between the sexes, those characters are vivid, real, and much more than spokespersons for particular points of view.

The play has been given a sparkling production at the American Airlines Theatre. Mark Brokaw's flawless direction, Allen Moyer's applause-inducing set design, and Michael Krass's sumptuous costumes are all in service to a delicious cast that is in perfect balance with its material. Lynn Redgrave gets all the good lines in the first of the play's three acts (this production is performed with one intermission after Act II) and she makes the most of them, spinning retro humor about marriage. When Kate Burton as the play's heroine, Constance, finally makes her entrance, the show really kicks into high gear. Praise must also be given to the multi-faceted performance of Michael Cumptsy as Constance's brittle husband and to John Dossett for his endearingly passionate take on Bernard, the man who wanted to marry Constance 15 years earlier. The rest of the leads -- Kathryn Meisle, Enid Graham, and John Ellison Conlee -- acquit themselves with comic honor.

The Constant Wife dazzles with a jazz-age sophistication that is somehow timeless; quick-witted dialogue and a fast pace suggest an early screwball comedy mixed with the sort of social issues that one might find in a George Bernard Shaw play. Hail to this season's first great Broadway revival.

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[To contact the Siegels directly, e-mail them at siegels@theatermania.com.]