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Donna Murphy masters a madwoman’s attempt to save humanity in this Jerry Herman musical

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Passion, The King and I, and Mrs. Astor on HBO’s The Gilded Age) leads the New York City Center Encores! production of the rarely produced Jerry Herman musical, Dear World.

The concert series celebrates American musicals — some notable and others that missed the mark in their original ideation.Based on Jean Giradoux’s play The Madwoman of Chaillot, Dear World follows the escapades of Countess Aurelia (Murphy), an eccentric woman hellbent on saving her Parisian neighborhood from a corporate president (Brooks Ashmanskas delivering delicious Trumpisms along with a wispy hint of Paul Lynde), prospector (Stanley Wayne Mathis) and a posse of lawyers who want to blow up a beloved café to tap the underground oil supply.Encores!

is known for its 10-day accelerated rehearsal process. In this case, Murphy tested positive for Covid on day one and returned with only five days to learn the role with the 28-member company.

The whirlwind served her well. Sporting a ghostly wig, a mash-up of textiles and costume jewelry designed by Toni Leslie James, and raccoon eyes that would rival Norma Desmond, Murphy turns this madwoman into the town matriarch.Herman wrote the scores for Hello, Dolly! (1964), Mame (1966), and La Cage aux Folles (1984) but failed to reach that level of notoriety with Dear World, though Murphy makes the most of it.

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