Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Grand Hotel: The Musical
Signature Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of P.Y.G. or The Mis-Edumacation of Dorian Belle and The Peculiar Patriot

Nkrumah Gatling and Bobby Smith
Photo by C. Stanley Photography
Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, knows how to put on a show, and its glossy production of Grand Hotel: The Musical places audiences right in the lobby of the most elegant hotel in Berlin. The year is 1928 and Germany is still a brief period of time away from the worldwide economic depression and the rise of the Nazis.

Director Eric Schaeffer has crowded the stage of the MAX Theatre with 16 acting, singing, and dancing powerhouses, most of whom play numerous roles. Paul Tate dePoo III's scenic design and Colin K. Bills' lighting offer burnished walls and metallic openwork around the balcony and the orchestra loft, a pair of staircases, practical lighting overhead and from wall sconces, occasional washes of mood-setting colored light, and a fine parquet floor. Robert Perdziola's costumes follow a monochrome color scheme, standing out through ornamentation and elaborate prints rather than color.

Despite the luxe atmosphere, the refrain throughout the musical—book by Luther Davis, music and lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest, additional music and lyrics by Maury Yeston, based on Vicki Baum's novel and play and the Academy Award-winning 1932 film adaptation—is "Time is running out." The central characters are dealing with personal and professional difficulties while the scullery staff and chambermaids lurk in a corridor, nursing their resentments against the rich people they serve.

Elizaveta Grushinskaya (Natascia Diaz), an aging prima ballerina, fears no longer being able to dance. Gallant Baron Felix von Gaigern (Nkrumah Gatling) insists on living beyond his means, which has gotten him into trouble with mobsters. Hermann Preysing (Kevin McAllister) has staked his company's success on a problematic merger. Flaemmchen (Nicki Elledge), an underpaid typist, is determined to try her luck in Hollywood. Otto Kringelein (Bobby Smith), a bookkeeper in Preysing's company, is dying but wants a bit of the high life before he goes. Watching over them is Colonel-Doctor Otternschlag (Lawrence Redmond), an embittered war veteran with an eyepatch and a morphine habit. They and others around them interact in almost two hours, without intermission, of swirling movement animated by Kelly Crandall D'Amboise's choreography and underscored by six musicians conducted from the piano by Evan Rees.

Smith, whose 20 Signature credits range from A Little Night Music and Titanic to his Helen Hayes Award-honored performance in La Cage aux Folles, once again inhabits his role. He becomes the shy, stoop-shouldered Kringelein, experiencing luxury with wide-eyed amazement, and eventually breaking out of his shell in a memorable dance number. Gatling shines as a man who, despite bad choices, is truly noble to the people around him. Diaz glows, Elledge depicts a woman driven by both desperation and hope, and Ian Anthony Coleman and Solomon Parker III sparkle in their high-spirited dance numbers.

Signature Theatre
Grand Hotel: The Musical
April 2nd - May 19th, 2019
Book by Luther Davis
Music & lyrics by Robert Wright & George Forrest
Based on Vicki Baum's Grand Hotel
By Arrangement with Turner Broadcasting Co. Owner of the Motion Picture Grand Hotel
Additional music & lyrics by Maury Yeston
Colonel-Doctor Otternschlag: Lawrence Redmond
Elizaveta Grushinskaya: Natascia Diaz
Raffaela: Crystal Mosser
General Director Preysing: Kevin McAllister
Flaemmchen: Nicki Elledge
Otto Kringelein: Bobby Smith
Baron Felix von Gaigern: Nkrumah Gatling
Chauffeur: Gregory Maheu
Scullery Workers: Ian Anthony Coleman, Vincent Kempski, Gregory Maheu, Solomon Parker III
Madame Peepee: Alicia Osborn
Telephone Operators: Katie Mariko Murray, Alicia Osborn, Maria Rizzo
Erik: Nicholas McDonough
Rohna: Ben Gunderson
Witt: Vincent Kempski
Sandor: Gregory Maheu
Jimmy 1: Ian Anthony Coleman
Jimmy 2: Solomon Parker III
Tootsie 1: Maria Rizzo
Tootsie 2: Katie Mariko Murray
Zinnowitz: Ian Anthony Coleman
Trude: Maria Rizzo
Shareholders: Ian Anthony Coleman, Vincent Kempski, Gregory Maheu, Katie Mariko Murray, Alicia Osborn, Solomon Parker III, Maria Rizzo
Dance Captain: Maria Rizzo
Directed by Eric Schaeffer
Choreography by Kelly Crandall D'Amboise
Music direction by Jon Kalbfleisch
MAX Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: 703-820-9771 or 1-800-955-5566 or