Sid Caesar, who died Wednesday at the age of 91, was perhaps best known as a pioneer in television sketch comedy ("Your Show of Shows"). But he was also a chameleon whose talents were showcased in Neil Simon's 1962 Broadway musical, "Little Me."
In it, he played seven different characters, an insanely challenging night of theater. By coincidence, New York City Center just finished a short Encores! run of "Little Me," featuring Fox Chapel native and Carnegie Mellon University graduate Christian Borle.
The new stage concert version was a hit with the critics, as was its star.
"If Borle were not already a Tony winner for 'Peter and the Starcatcher' and one of the best things in NBC's unlamented 'Smash,' we could consider this a star-making performance," gushed Linda Winer in her Newsday review.
Indeed, the Encores! production added an eighth character at the very end.
I caught the final show February 9 after seeing yet ANOTHER tour-de-force, multiple-role performance only hours earlier. Jefferson Mays, a Tony winner for "I Am My Own Wife," portrays eight decidedly daffy men and women in the critical darling of Broadway, "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder."
From Asquith D'Ysquith Jr. to Lady Salome D'Ysquith Pumphrey, Mays is the very picture of British caricature. Bryce Pinkham co-stars as a poor man of good breeding who discovers he's eighth in line to the title of Earl of Highhurst and will do anything to get it.
Also in the cast is Catherine Walker, a CMU grad who on that day stepped into the role of Phoebe, the only nice member of the D'Ysquith clan.
Playing at the Walter Kerr Theatre, "Gentleman's Guide" is a delight, with Broadway newcomers Robert Freedman (book, lyrics) and Steven Lutvak (music, lyrics).
So, eight hours, two actors, 16 roles. And yet it all made sense. Sid would have felt right at home.
(Top photo: Rachel York and Christian Borle. Credit, Joan Marcus)