Sunday, December 22, 2013

LOVE, LINDA ... a musical review & Land of Plenty / east side Sichuan cuisine

If you are an aficionado of the Great American Songbook, then you must catch Love, Linda, a taut, at times tender, and bold (!) musical review portraying in song and dramatic monologue the outline and high (& low) points in the life of Linda Lee Thomas & Cole Porter


Running now (through January 5th) at The York Theatre Company (The Theater at Saint Peter's at 619 Lexington Avenue; tel. 212-935-5820), Love, Linda is an intimate theater piece that explores the life journey of the "southern beauty" who became Mrs. Cole Porter despite the fact that the legendary & prolific composer-songwriter was a gay man. And, although Cole Porter was gay, the marriage and friendship, begun in the Roaring Twenties, succeeded in lasting for some 35 years. 

Cole Porter
This one-woman show, starring the "acclaimed jazz vocalist," Ms. Stevie Holland celebrates, according to the theater's PR material, Porter's "timeless" music along with a "compelling narrative" ... all accentuating the "deep love that Linda and Cole shared, while examining the darker sides" of their lives.

Directed by Richard Maltby, Jr., and replete with music & lyrics by Cole Porter, Love, Linda runs about an hour (without intermission) and contains perhaps fifteen or sixteen of Porter's iconic songs delivered confidently & vivaciously with sensitivity, intelligence, and panache by Ms. Holland ... and featuring arrangements & additional music by Gary William Friedman (co-author of the book with his wife, Ms. Holland). 

Cole Porter Songbook
Most memorable songs offered up during the evening, in my view - and, perhaps, most  interestingly or idiosyncratically arranged for the 65-minute performance - proved to be the following:  "Miss Otis Regrets," "Love For Sale," "I Love Paris," "Night and Day," "In the Still of the Night," and the "combo" appropriately kicking off the music (& the drama) at the beginning of the show ... "So In Love" / "What Is This Thing Called Love." Two other nicely rendered Porter gems are "Ridin' High" & "My Heart Belongs to Daddy." And, additionally, right smack in the middle of the review, Ms. Holland launches into a short medley of well-known Porter material.

Very Best of Cole Porter
Once  again, if you consider yourself a die-hard "jazz-age"/jazz-inflected Cole Porter fan (or even if you don't), you still have time to see & hear Stevie Holland et al. during the next two weeks, or so, mid-town east at The York Theatre Company (theater entrance on 54th just east of Lex). And check with TDF where some (discounted) tickets for the review might just still be available.  

So, enjoy yourself ... at this sophisticated, one-of-a-kind musical confection!

Note:  Senior rush tickets (@ $20., cash) can be purchased at the box office beginning an hour before a scheduled performance. There is a limit of one ticket per person,subject to availability. 

Land of Plenty
Prior to trundling down to the theater on 54th & Lex to pick up our TDF tickets to see Love, Linda, the four of us out on the proverbial town decided to dine at a very welcoming & pleasant Land of Plenty - featuring "authentic Sichuan cuisine" (at 201 East 58th, near 3rd Ave.; tel. 212-308-8788).

This east-side Sichuan resto offers an extremely varied
Honey-glazed Spare Ribs

menu of hot & cold appetizers (a variety of steamed or fried dumplings, baby eggplant with spicy sesame dressing); soups (including Mme. Songs Fish Chowder, for two!); vegetables (for example, braised pumpkin with ginger & scallion); poultry (a very hot stir fried chicken with roasted chili & Asian green chili?); meats (braised beef filets with Napa cabbage & roasted chili); seafood (all kinds of whole fish, smoked, braised, or sauteed); rice & noodles ... and "Plenty's" ... a full column's length of specially prepared chef's offerings. 

Shredded Pork w/Garlic Sauce
Much to choose from at Land of Plenty. The constant flow of mains & appetizers - dishes of all sorts - coming out of the kitchen, along with their accompanying fragrances, enticed us & also confused us to the extent that we all felt it best to consult with our waiter as we set out to order a meal that would reflect:  individual "mandates"; a group effort; and at least a minimum degree of Sichuan diversity.

Braised Beef Filets
So: We began with two orders of dumplings, a plate of pan- fried pork dumplings (@ $5.95), nicely crisped, gingery, and another of steamed "mini-juicy" pork dumplings ($6.95). We followed up the dumplings with the baby eggplant in spicy sesame dressing ($6.95) and honey-glazed spare ribs ($7.95) ... and then ordered three mains (still sharing all!):  the thick & tender braised beef filets with Napa cabbage & roasted chili (@ $14.50); the shredded pork with spicy garlic sauce (a traditional Sichuan pork dish, but very juicy & mildly spiced; $11.50); and, from the Plenty's column, a braised whole tilapia with chili miso (a bit bony, delicately prepared & flavorful, and, again, nicely, but not overly, spiced; $21.50).

Of course, we had called for rice - and bowls of both brown and white were served, one or the other for each of us. And we washed all this food down with a few bottles of Tsingtao & Amstel Lite ... while one of our number couldn't refrain from her usual glass (or two) of Malbec for, admittedly, digestive purposes (to be sure).
Spicy Steamed Pork Dumplings

In short, a very diverse, comprehensive, filling, & memorably "authentic" Sichuan dining experience. And whether we return will certainly not be based on an if (if, for example, we see another musical review "off-B'way," mid-town, on the east side) ... but, rather, when ... and, hopefully, very soon, indeed!

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