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get some peace

You can't really fault a show for not being faithful to the novel Swiss Family Robinson. The original tale is fairly dull going, a useful manual if you really are stranded on a desert island and want to read descriptions of farming and building tools and the such (mixed in with a lot of praying and piety) but rather dull in general. But the "family shipwrecked on an isle" story is too engaging a concept and so Swiss Family Robinson has been expanded and contracted over the centuries, dumbed down for kids (who might be shocked at the constant slaughter of animals in the original; hey a family's gotta eat!), stripped of its moralizing, juiced up in the action by Disney and so on.

Still, this new musical by the brothers Kennedy does lose sight of the basic appeal of this story: a family surviving and learning to depend on each other on a deserted island. (Patrick and John did the book, John did the music and lyrics, Walter did the choreography and Patrick directed.) Their island is bursting with so many characters -- from French sailors who are NOT pirates to school girls who are being raised in an Amazonian-style by their mistress -- that the poor Robinsons might well search out another more deserted island to get some peace.

The minimal staging and choreography add little to the story, but the story is less isolated survival and more Gilbert & Sullivan romp. The Robinsons are stranded on an island after their ship is capsized in a storm. It's lucky in a way since they were being threatened by dread French sailors, who have a young man in captivity they hope to ransom. That young man is actually a girl (the very appealing Jessie Shelton), who has been adventuring with her father all over the world and isn't about to let some French fools stop her from getting away.

They're all on the island where schoolgirls are running around in odd native garb, encouraged in their heathen ways by a mistress who has taken advantage of their earlier shipwreck (this island is quite the busy way station) to teach the gals independence and a forthright disdain of the male species. Men. Who needs 'em? That lasts about one second after the girls get their first glimpse of the Robinson lads.
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the new fall season

The New York Musical Theatre Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary in typical fashion: by hosting more than 50 events ranging from showcases and readings to dozens of fully staged new musicals in a three week period. Running through July 28, NYMF is always sure to offer one or two shows that rank among the best of the year, along with numerous works in progress that show promise and if nothing else the chance to see some of New York's most talented actors sink their teeth into a brand new show. They've launched several Broadway shows, a clutch of Off Broadway hits and literally countless productions around the world. Best of all, at $25 for tickets, it's also one of the best bargains in town and a great way to fill the summer void between the Tony Awards and the new fall season.

As a bonus, this year most of the shows are being performed at the handsome Signature Theatre Company (which has four different stages) and their original home now proudly boasting Pearl Theatre Company. So most of the shows are literally one block away from each other on 42nd St. Here's my first report on this season's offerings.

the Nationals so far

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bryce Harper says he played "terrible" in the first half of the season.

He and the rest of the Washington Nationals need to do better if they're to make a run at the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.

The Nationals are one game above .500 as they resume play following the All-Star break with a home series starting Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Manager Davey Johnson says the Nationals are lucky to be only six games behind the Braves.

Harper had a whirlwind trip to New York for the All-Star festivities, finishing second in the Home Run Derby and getting a spot in the starting lineup in the All-Star game.

But he says he doesn't think he's played well for the Nationals so far.

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