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3 From Brooklyn (11/19/1992 - 12/27/1992)


 

New York Daily News: "Brooklyn '3' A Sorry Crowd"

In racing circles you describe a horse by its parents, which helps you figure the odds. Perhaps the best way of decribing "3 From Brooklyn" is that it was sired by "Catskills on Broadway" out of Soft Economy.

Essentially, "3 From Brooklyn" is a series of lounge acts masquerading as a Broadway show. It was inspired by the success of "Catskills on Broadway," which was also a series of lounge acts, one of which--Mal Z. Lawrence--was a revelation. Lawrence is so masterly that he raises the humble craft of Borscht Belt comedy to the level of art.

There are no such revelations here. Sal Richards, who devised the show, makes the strongest impression. He also performs the longest, close to an hour. Richards, who resembles a chubby Dustin Hoffman, has a range of routines, mostly about Italian family life in Brooklyn. The funniest is a series of impressions of singers, which gives him a chance to work the audience in a very skilled way.

Adrianne Tolsch gets great mileage out of the oddities of Jewish family life in Brooklyn. She has a strong sense of physical comedy and uses the shrill voice that is apparently her family signature with great versatility. She has a nice offhand style of delivery (like her description of an uncle so macho "he ordered a kosher meal on Lufthansa") and an easy way with her audience. Of the various acts, her is the only one that seems too short.

That cannot be said of Alto & Mantia, whose routines reminded me of the comics I saw on early black and white TV. Their best number is a retelling of the movie "The Wizard of Oz" as if it had been made by Italians. It's a clever idea that doesn't yield as many laughs as it should.

Lest you not know that Roslyn Kind is the half-sister of Barbra Streisand, she begins her set with "People" before veering into "I Gotta Be Me." She is more attractive than her sister and has a voice of comparable power. But like that schizophrenic opening, she can't seem to decide whether she wants to edge into Barbra's spotlight or be her own woman.

She takes a great song, Stephen Schwartz' "Meadowlark," for example, and reduces it to a collection of vocal mannerisms. (By chance, I had heard it the day before at a benefit. It was sung by Judy Kuhn accompanied by the composer. With so fresh a memory of how glorious the song could be, Kind, who does not seem to invest her act with a lot of thought, could only summer by comparison.)

The BQE Dancers, a trio of energetic street hoofers (one of whom is Richard's son, Guy) rounds out the evening and provides the title. Ray Serra handles a lame narration ably.

If the economy were stronger and there were genuine plays and musicals to fill our theaters, it is unlikely "3 From Brooklyn" could rent a Broadway house. I am not averse to people having a good time, and certainly the audience around me did. But I get nervous when people pay Broadway prices for much less in an Atlantic City lounge or at home for free. 


New York Daily News
11/20/1992

New York Post: "3 for Broadway Should Have Left The Rest in B'klyn"

It was the follow-up, catch-up maestri of Hollywood who, with their deliciously unblase conviction that lightening always strikes in the same place twice, first regularly marketed the technique of the sequel, prequel and overkill.

But in those concentric circles called entertainment, wherever the silver screen leads, the Great White Way is always there just behind it-- and in recent years we have ad much the same spate of fashions in theater as in cinema.

Thus it follows, as night follows night, that the runaway triumph of Jackie Mason and the modest but secure success of "Catskills on Broadway" would provide a bridgehead for the advancing legions of stand-up comedians all wanting to put a Broadway notch in their borscht-belts.

Which brings me to last night's little revue at the Helen Hayes Theater, "3 From Brooklyn," which, once I had worked out just what it was, I found myself welcoming with arms that were nearly open. It's a lot better than you might think, especially from the opening.

First what is it? It's a star turn (by a star--Sal Richards--who frankly I've never heard of, but what would a New York drama critic know?), preceded by an unnecessary proliferation of opening acts and a gimmick that would have been better left the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Here's the gimmick. The three from the aformentioned borough are a dance team-- three young guys with a style somewhere between break and "West Side Story" bust. Cosmo and Cabbie (Raymond Serra) sees them performing in front of their multicolored stoops and decides they deserve a chance to open for some talented Brooklyn performer.

The irritating Cosmo-- who specializes in telling about the good old days of Brooklyn with its aroma of lasagna, etc., etc., and offering us an unending litany of Brooklynites who got famous enough to leave-- introduces a succession of Brooklyn-born acts, culminating in Richards.

The device is tedious, and the acts--until Richards-- are variable. Adrianne Tolsch is an agreeable ably wry stand-up comic not quite sharp enough yet for Broadway, and there is a singer called Roslyn Kind who disconcertingly since "I've Gotta Be Me!" in a manner that irresistibly recalls La Streisand.

I was further disconcerted when, on looking the program when I got home, I discovered she was Streisand's sister!

Bobby Alto and Buddy Mantia are a double act that is, in fact, ready for prime time-- funny guys with quite fresh ethnic material. But the whole evening is in little more than suspended animation before the arrival of a Runyonesque figure with laid-back hair and friendly teeth, Sal Richard, who immaculately conceived and directed the show...as a showcase for himself.

Richards is terrific. Freddie Roman should have been so lucky as to hire him as his resident Italian for "Catskills on Broadway." His jokes are as unstale as old jokes get, his abrasive charm is totally beguiling, audiences eat off his pinkie rings, his deliveries are pizza-perfect, and he does wonderful impressions all happily chosen by ignoring audience requests.

"3 From Brooklyn" would be much, much better if it had abandoned its premise (the premises it can keep), changed Charles E. McCarry's set design to something glamourous but neutral, and concentrated on the three from Brooklyn capable of knocking one out of Ebbets Field-- Alto, Mantia and that definitely Big League player, Richards.

 


New York Post
11/20/1992

New York Times: "Gags and Songs in a Revue Whose Star Is Brooklyn "

Jackie Mason begat "Catskills on Broadway," which begat "3 From Brooklyn," and in the third generation of comedy shows, there is a definite thinning of the line. This revue, which opened last night at the Helen Hayes Theater, is a random series of lounge acts and second bananas who pass time until the headliner appears. But in this case, there is no headliner, only Sal Richards, a comedian who conceived and directed the show. His first words ring with accuracy. Addressing the audience, he says, "I know you people have no idea who the hell I am."

"3 From Brooklyn" takes place on a mock street lined with front stoops. A four-piece combo is crowded into a corner marked garage. The opening act on the bill is a trio called the B.Q.E. Dancers; they are the three in the title. Guy Richards, whose father is Sal Richards, and his two partners do an athletic street dance that is no better or worse than that given by the average outdoor performers in Times Square.

Jackie Mason begat "Catskills on Broadway," which begat "3 From Brooklyn," and in the third generation of comedy shows, there is a definite thinning of the line. This revue, which opened last night at the Helen Hayes Theater, is a random series of lounge acts and second bananas who pass time until the headliner appears. But in this case, there is no headliner, only Sal Richards, a comedian who conceived and directed the show. His first words ring with accuracy. Addressing the audience, he says, "I know you people have no idea who the hell I am."

"3 From Brooklyn" takes place on a mock street lined with front stoops. A four-piece combo is crowded into a corner marked garage. The opening act on the bill is a trio called the B.Q.E. Dancers; they are the three in the title. Guy Richards, whose father is Sal Richards, and his two partners do an athletic street dance that is no better or worse than that given by the average outdoor performers in Times Square.

From there on, the show segues into a semblance of a storyline, in which Raymond Serra, playing a Brooklyn cab driver, leads the cast in expounding on the ethnicities, favorite sons and foods of the borough (from bagels to cannoli), each of which is intended to draw applause of recognition. He also offers words of sugary sentimentality. In Brooklyn, we are told, there are "different people but with one goal: happiness," which might come as a surprise to some who live in Crown Heights.

The performers include Roslyn Kind, Barbra Streisand's sister, who tries to establish her individuality by opening her act with "People" and following it with other songs identified with her sibling. Later, she sings while sitting on the apron of the stage and thereby calls our attention to another celebrated singer. Bobby Alto and Buddy Mantia are two men in ties and tails who look as if they have just come from a funeral, carrying their jokes with them. Their centerpiece is a feeble Italian version of "The Wizard of Oz."

As this shopworn revue ambles along, there is one momentary bright spot: Adrianne Tolsch, a standup comic who tells stories about her raucous aunts and their grating voices and her own days growing up in Brooklyn. At least there is an edge to Ms. Tolsch's comedy. But in common with her colleagues, she seems excessively pleased to be on Broadway, albeit at the price of being in "3 from Brooklyn."

More than an hour into the show, Sal Richards makes his appearance, bringing with him a barrage of Italian jokes (and some Jewish and Polish ones). He works hard to little effect; he is all warmup. Then he arrives at his specialty: impressions. He asks the audience for suggestions.

At Wednesday's matinee, theatergoers shouted out the names of Perry Como, Frank Sinatra and Danny Kaye, and he ignored all of them -- his one amusing touch -- to do Dean Martin, followed by Johnny Cash singing "I'll Walk the Line" in Italian. The impersonations are not precise. The comedian says Sammy Davis Jr. told him that in his imitation of him, Mr. Richards captured his look but not his voice. Then he proves that Mr. Davis was wrong on the first count.

Mr. Richards ends the show short of two hours, informing theatergoers that he is saving them an extra $20 on their parking fees. Call it a public service. 3 From Brooklyn Conceived and directed by Sal Richards; musical director, Steve Michaels; music and lyrics by Sandi Merle and Mr. Michaels; set design by Charles E. McCarry; lighting by Phil Monat; sound by Raymond D. Schilke; production stage manager, Laura Kravets. Presented by Michael Frazier, Larry Spellman and Don Ravella. At the Helen Hayes Theater, 240 West 44th Street, Manhattan. WITH: Sal Richards, Raymond Serra, Roslyn Kind, Bobby Alto, Buddy Mantia, Adrianne Tolsch and the B.Q.E. Dancers.


New York Times
11/20/1992

Variety: "3 from Brooklyn"

Producers stuckw ith a sure prospect for Broadway flopitude used to open in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas in order to dun the tourist trade; hence the term "turkey." Should "3 From Brooklyn" still be running when this notice is published, the wisdom of that ploy will have been proved as timely as it was in an earlier era.

This compendium of second and third-rate lounge material looks to cash in on the modest popularity of such non-Broadway Broadway fare as Jackie Mason's shows and "Catskills on Broadway," but it won't have the staying power of its antecedents.

The low point comes when singer Roslyn Kind appears in profile, microphone raised to lips, rendering the first few bars of "People" in the style of her real-life sister, Barbra Streisand, and the segueing into "I've Gotta Be Me." Wrapping barefaced exploitations of a famous sibling in a veneer of independence, it's a moment of stunning badness capable of taking your breath away.

But phoniness pervades the show, from Raymond Serra's saccharine melting-pot pronouncements about Brooklyn to the endless routine by singing comic Sal Richards, who regularly claims to mean no offense as he offends virtually everyone within earshot. And why's Richards given directing credit on the Playbill cover sheet while Jay Harvey is cited as director inside?

There are dreary routines by the duo of Bobby Alto & Buddy Mantia, and Adrianne Tolsch, while a muscular male trio called the "BQE Dancers"-- featuring Richards' son, Guy-- demonstrates more muscularity than talent. "3 From Brooklyn" is the Arnold Horshack of Broadway shows.


Variety
11/23/1992

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