ASR Theater ~~ 42nd Street Moon Shines with “The Scottsboro Boys”

By George Maguire

The Scottsboro Boys retells the story of nine young black men who on March 25, 1931 while on a freight train in Alabama were accused by two white women of rape and were subsequently arrested. These innocent men would serve collectively over 100 years of imprisonment with numerous retrials and continued electric chair verdicts.

The ACLU (cofounded by Helen Keller) and the American Communist Party fought valiantly for their acquittal.

The Scottsboro Boys is a minstrel musical masterpiece by 42nd Street Moon Theater Company that should be applauded for presenting this challenging and visionary musical. Receiving a rousing opening- night standing ovation, the play is beautifully cast with thirteen actors/singers – twelve of them African American, and one white interlocutor (wonderfully played by gifted Michael Patrick Gaffney) who introduces us into the minstrel show theatricality demanded by the material.

…42nd Street Moon has found a niche of excellence in their presentation…

The remarkable musical, the last full collaboration of John Kander and Fred Ebb, whose work always seemed to push the boundaries of ingenious theatricality (Chicago, Cabaret, etc.) was first presented off-Broadway in 2010, six years after Fred Ebb’s death. Each actor in the Moon production brings an indelible font of the past to the proceedings.

The minstrel show presentation enlivened by Anthony Rollins-Mullens as Mr. Tambo and Albert Hodge as Mr. Bones brings us pointedly into the world of black entertainers as they were perceived by a white audience at the time.

The Ensemble

(On a personal note, I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware and my father was a member of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic service organization. I remember vividly being introduced to minstrel shows presented with the knights in blackface as they entertained white family audiences. Frightening and painful to recall now in light of a five year old’s perspective.)

The constant back and forth jabs at slightly off-color humor that the wonderful actors bring with their rich singing voices and movement/dance infuse the evening with history and pain.

A deeply moving Marcus J. Paige as Heywood, one of the prisoners, gives one of the great performances of the evening, singing with sorrow, pathos and simplicity a beautiful ballad called “Nothin”. A great actor doing great work!

Director Brandon Jackson allows each sterling moment to shine. Choreographer Kimberly Valmore stages the work with amazing versatility and imagination. Musical director Diana Lee conducts the lovely backstage three-piece ensemble.

Jon-David Randle and Alejandro Eustaquio at 42nd St Moon.

42nd Street Moon has found a niche of excellence in their presentation. The pain, the guilt, and the cry to the future for change and understanding are paramount. See this musical and you will laugh and weep!


ASR Contributing Writer George Maguire is a San Francisco based actor and director. and a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. He is a Professor Emeritus of Solano College. Contact:


ProductionThe Scottsboro Boys
Written by

Music/Lyrics by
David Thompson

John Kander + Fred Ebb
Directed byBrandon Jackson
Producing Company42nd Street Moon
Production DatesThru May 21st
Production AddressThe Gateway Theatre

215 Jackson Street San Francisco, CA
Telephone(415) 255-8205
Tickets$35 – $80
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review PICK?----

ASR Theater ~~ “Anything Goes” at 42nd Street Moon — Sporadically De-Lightful and De-Lovely

By George Maguire

No one dominated the Broadway scene in the 1930s and 1940s more than the prolific Cole Porter. With 24 musicals beginning with Paris in 1928, Porter’s wit, elegance and astonishing gift of music enriched both the mind and the heart. Cole Porter captivated the zeitgeist and bonhomie of the upper class like no other composer. Richard Rogers took musical theater in a whole other direction with the breakthrough of Oklahoma! in 1943.

What fascinates is that with the exceptions of Anything Goes and Kiss Me Kate no other Cole Porter musical has met the test of time despite often prestigious and memorable songs. Anything Goes opened in 1934 and decades later became one of the most beloved and revived musicals in the Broadway canon—1987 with Patti Lupone and 2011 with Sutton Foster. With original songs “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” “All Through The Night,” “Blow Gabriel Blow,” and “Friendship,” it stormed Broadway with a then record setting run of 420 performances.

…Lisa Danz’s elegant and imaginative costumes pop out with color and taste…

The ridiculously inane and goofy plot (if you can begin to follow it) takes place on a cruise ship crossing the Atlantic from NYC to England. With toe tapping sailors, mistaken identities, crooks and gangsters and ever-changing love affairs, the latest version of the musical is held together with a luscious score filled with interpolated musical numbers (“You’re The Top,” “It’s Delovely”) from the Porter canon. You just sit back and let the memorable, constantly hummable score wrap you in the greatness of an American musical.

Now to the problems and the challenges of this production. The set (by Kuo-Hao Lo) is a monochromatic white boat deck that is desperately in need of some filigree. Like a large roll of paper towels, it is just there and unfortunately feels unfinished. This is not enhanced by the weak lighting design of Sean Keenan.

Only Lisa Danz’s elegant and imaginative costumes pop out with color and taste. Kudos to Ms.Danz’s choice to give the sailors the colors of Ukraine with yellow and blue tops.

All of this is richly enhanced by Robyn Tribuzi’s stunning tap choreography of the title song. It keeps building and building until it bursts with Broadway glory and we are finally at home with Anything Goes.

(L-R) Heather Orth, Jillian A. Smith, Paul Hovannes

The 18-member cast is led by Ashley Cowl as Reno Sweeney (The Ethel Merman role), and Ms. Cowl can do it all. The score is perfectly situated in her head-belt range and she sings it with flair and gusto. In a glorious role reversal casting choice, the role of the inept con-man Moonface Martin, is played with expert comic timing and gorgeous vocals by Heather Orth as a gun toting hilarious gal in a nun’s outfit.

Is there anything Ms. Orth cannot do? Matt Skinner is the stowaway Billy Crocker in love with the already engaged Hope Harcourt (Jas Cook). Mr. Skinner’s sweet tenor and love on his shirt sleeves ardor make for a boyish leading man. His “You’re the Top” duet with Ms. Cowl’s Reno is a particular highlight.

The rest of the cast for me was either inadequate or pushed so hard, I wanted to say “Dial it back.” This is a tough show in which to find a balance, and I kept forgetting who and why some roles were even on stage under Nick Ishimaru’s direction.

The opening night audience was loud and appreciative, but there were empty seat post-intermission. Still, there is that score and delight in the music (led by music director Dave Dubrusky’s four-piece ensemble), as the song goes – takes us back to Manhattan.


ASR Contributing Writer George Maguire is a San Francisco based actor and director. and a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. He is a Professor Emeritus of Solano College. Contact:


ProductionAnything Goes
Written by --- Revised by --- Music byGuy Bolton, P.G. Wodehouse --- Lindsay and Crouse --- Cole Porter
Directed byNick Ishimaru
Producing Company42nd Street Moon
Production DatesThru Mar 12, 2023
Production AddressThe Gateway Theatre

176 Jackson Street San Francisco, CA
Telephone(415) 255-8205
Tickets$35 – $80
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review PICK?----

PICK! ASR Theater ~~ “Fun Home” is a Solid Bet at the Gateway Theater

By Barry Willis

Despite at least one very dark plot element and an abrupt tragic ending, 42nd Street Moon’s musical “Fun Home” fills its 95 minutes with uplifting and delightful song-and-dance. At the Gateway Theatre on Jackson Street in the city’s financial district, the show closes its three-week run this Sunday, May 8.

A lesbian coming-of-age story derived from cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s autobiographical graphic novel, the show features the adult Alison (Rinobeth Apostol) in her studio, overseeing her past unfolding before her as she scribbles and scrawls—a theatrical replay of her creation of the novel. Scenic designer Mark Mendelson cleverly places her in a sort of god-like position where she can observe all that’s transpired to make her what she is. Apostol is a confident and compelling actor, onstage throughout the show, sometimes fully engaged with her castmates and sometimes merely a somewhat detached observer.

Central to the story is Alison’s sexual awakening, and her relationship with her father Bruce (Jason Vesely), an English teacher, home renovator, and funeral home director—quite an imposing set of skills—and a closeted gay man given to frequent flings that distress his wife Helen (Jennifer Boesing).

Grown Alison watches as her younger self, “Small Alison” (McKenna Rose) cavorts with her brothers John and Christian (Keenan Moran and Royal Mickens, respectively), and is especially attentive to “Medium Alison” (Teresa Attridge), the college-age version of herself who wonders about lesbianism before finally giving it a go with classmate Joan (Sophia Alawi).

The cast, stagecraft, lighting and sound are all very good….

New for this reviewer, Attridge is an astounding performer whose rendition of “Changing My Major” celebrates Alison’s embrace of her sexuality and her deep love affair with Joan. It’s the high point of the first act and quite possibly the high point of the entire production—a simply off-the-chart performance, among many that almost reach that level. Musical theater veteran Dave Dubrusky leads a small ensemble that perfectly backs the show’s many great songs, reinforced by Natalie Greene’s high-energy au courant choreography.

The cast, stagecraft, lighting and sound are all very good—a rare production with no glitches to grumble about. Directed by Tracy Ward, “Fun Home” is a solid bet for those seeking entertainment with a plausible modern through-line.

42nd Street Moon’s publicity hypes it as “a Bay Area regional premiere” but the show has played at least twice in the Bay Area, first at the Curran in January 2017 then again in October 2018 at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley. It’s a popular show. This one runs 95 minutes, no intermission. Expect a couple of other local productions within the coming year.


Aisle Seat Review NorCal Executive Editor Barry Willis is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and president of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. Contact:











ProductionFun Home
Written byLisa Kron
Directed byTracy Ward
Producing Company42nd Street Moon
Production DatesThru May 8th
Production AddressThe Gateway Theatre

176 Jackson Street San Francisco, CA
Telephone(415) 255-8207
Tickets$45 – $79
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review PICK?Yes!