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Grand Hotel review at City Center, New York – ‘intimate and dazzling’

Helene Yorke and Brandon Uranowitz in the Encores! staging of Grand Hotel at City Center, New York. Photo: Joan Marcus
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The Encores! series of concert performances that bring neglected Broadway shows back into the spotlight for just seven shows each is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Grand Hotel may be just be best show in the series since Kander and Ebb’s Chicago in 1996. Like that show, this is perfectly suited to the front-on, stripped back, single-set intimacy of Encores!

Conceived by its original director/choreographer Tommy Tune as a tapestry of music, mood and movement, it follows a 24 hour period in the life of Europe’s most expensive hotel in Berlin, captured in elegant simplicity by designer Allen Moyer beneath three large chandeliers lit in changing chiaroscuro hues by Ken Billington.

Another director/choreographer Josh Rhodes (who choreographed the ENO versions of Carousel and Sweeney Todd) follows Tune’s template to provide an impressionistic portrait of this temporary community, and the tragedy that occurs when a debt-ridden baron attempts to rob a celebrated ballerina of a piece of valuable jewellery, and has his heart stolen by her instead. As this is going on, a businessman attempts to seduce his new secretary in the adjoining room,

It’s a plot ripe with melodrama and amplified emotions, but composer/lyricists Robert Wright, George Forrest and Maury Yeston supply surging melodies that perfectly complement it.

As rendered here to the sumptuous accompaniment of an onstage orchestra under the baton of regular Encores! MD Rob Berman, it is simply gorgeous.

A cast of sublime Broadway performers give the show emotional and vocal heft. James Snyder’s Baron has an impressive tenor, and there’s a really lovely performance from Brandon Uranowitz as a dying Jewish bookkeeper, determined to get a taste of life, at last.

There’s also outstanding tango dancing from Junior Cervila and Guadalupe Garcia lending the show a haunting texture.

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Intimate and dazzling staging of the 1989 Broadway musical