I'm sad to say that the World AIDS Day concert production of Rags was a dissapointment in almost every respect: the cast (for the most part) seemed underrehearsed and ill-at-ease with the material, the acoustics at the Nokia Theatre were god-awful, and the show was delayed by an hour due to the theatre's inept staff. Carolee Carmello has a gorgeous voice, but she's miscast as Rebecca: this role needs to be sung by a soprano. Eden Espinosa proves that she actually can sing, but she wasn't Jewish enough to play her character convincingly. Michael Rupert (a last minute replacement for Harvey Fierstein) is his usual reliable self, but he could have used a bit more rehearsal time to properly draw a character. And, of course, Gregg Edelman was vanilla. What do you expect?
The positives were Lainie Kazan, wonderfully vamping up the role of Rachel, and Lewis Cleale's impassioned union leader Saul. The best of all, however, was David A. Austin as Bella's boyfriend Ben: this kid has a real future. He sings and dances beautifully, and really acts the hell out of his part. Here's someone who deserves to be a headliner.