What happens when a mutli-millionaire starts giving away his money for relatively no reason at all? People start to question his sanity of course! That is exactly the case when it comes to Michael Mayer’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.
Originally produced in 1979, Encores! Off-Center at New York City Center’s reprise of Kurt Vonnegut’s funny little play, tells the story of eccentric millionaire, Eliot Rosewater (Santino Fontana), who is the president of the Rosewater Foundation. The Rosewater Foundation has received notoriety by funding the local artists and business ventures from poetry to science. It is run by the youngest generation of Rosewaters and its presidency follows suit. We learn that as president Eliot gives freely and openly to all who request, much to the bane of his father, but also suffers from many breakdowns and bouts of alcoholism. Eliot grows weary of this life and leaves to find himself, adventuring from volunteer fire brigade to volunteer fire brigade (yes, you read that correctly). During one drunken evening, Eliot realizes that the way he can find himself is by going back to the town that shares his namesake. While there, he changes the lives of all of the townsfolk for the better, which of course, catches the attention of newbie lawyer, Norman Mushari (Skylar Astin). Norman has found a clause in the Foundation’s bylaws that states if Eliot is proven insane, his millions would transfer over to his next of kin. Mushari, sensing a hefty fee, makes it his personal business to find the other Rosewaters and prove Eliot a basketcase.
Rosewater is presented as a concert performance for just three nights only, and while their scripts were in hand, the cast does a phenomenal job of bringing this play to life. With music by Alan Menken, you cannot laugh to such hits such as, “Thank God for the Volunteer Fire Brigade”, “Cheese Nips”, and “Rhode Island Tango”. While the subplots are a bit hard to follow and can sometimes be distracting, the overall storyline of a ridiculously wealthy, World War II veteran with PTSD, who gives up his relationships, his dignity and his character to do everything he can to help out a town everyone forgot make this something worth seeing. Major kudos goes to the technical team as the subtle touches, such as dimly lighting the “postcard” of the town they were in during a particular scene, really helped round out this performance.
Should you miss this installment, the amount of effort put forth in this Encores! Off-Center show makes me want to come back for more. This reviewer truly appreciated all of the hard work of those involved. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater is playing July 28-30th at the New York City Center.
Review By: Renee Demaio
Photos By: Joan Marcus