Let's Talk Off Broadway

Yvonne Korshak reviews Off-Broadway, Broadway, Film and Art

Category: Musical Theater Page 3 of 4

Musical Review | Once/Twice | Two One-Act Musicals | Adaptation, Music and Lyrics by Paul Dick | Directed by Celine Rosenthal | Music Direction by Ming Aldrich-Gan | PASSAJJ Productions | Roy Arias Stage IV

… a show of sheer joy …

Thank heavens for Off-Off-Broadway!  It gives you the chance to see a superb work by Paul Dick who has written over 15 musicals based on classical works of literature, among them, Wuthering Heights at the Mint Theatre Space, and Madame Bovary reviewed here.  Still, his work hasn’t yet received the broad recognition it deserves — it’s awaiting!  And now’s your chance to come to know him, and see a moving, song-filled exciting show.

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Review | The Threepenny Opera | Book and Lyrics by Bertolt Brecht | Music by Kurt Weill | English Adaptation by Mark Blitzstein | Directed and Choreographed by Martha Clarke | Atlantic Theater Company

Mack the Soupspoon (… couldn’t resist …)

From the first moments of the overture, discordant and musical, played by superb musicians from the back of the stage, you know you’re experiencing something great.  The Threepenny Opera is one of the greatest pieces of musical theatre of the 20th Century — it’s up there with Porgy and Bess — and happily this production fulfills it.

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Review | A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum by Burt Shevelove & Larry Gelbart | Inspired by Plautus’ play | With Peter Scolari | Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim | Directed & Choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge | Bay Street Theatre, Sag Harbor, Long Island

Set in ancient Rome as its appealing title suggests (that title being one of the best things it has going for it)  A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum is a zany comedy with music.  A slave, Pseudolus, makes the deal to acquire for his master, Hero, the beautiful Philia, in return for which Hero will set him free.  Philia is held in the house of the pimp, Marcus Lycus, who purchased her on behalf of the Great General, Miles Gloriosus whose arrival is imminent.   With Hero’s parents out of town, Pseudolus sets to work keeping Philia away from Miles Gloriosus and nabbing her for Hero, the slave’s on-the-spot inventiveness conjuring various ruses involving potions, hideouts and disguises leading to humorous false hopes and a romp of mistaken identities.

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Roger Rathburn as Charles, Hayley Hoffmeister as Emma. Photo: Andrew Nuzhnyy.

Musical Review | Madame Bovary | Based on the Novel by Gustave Flaubert | Adaptation, Music and Lyrics Paul Dick | Direction and Choreography Marlene Thorn Taber | PASSAJJ Productions

This musical adaptation conveys to a remarkable extent the epic scope and compelling narrative force of Flaubert’s novel.  One is intent, watching the musical, on catching every word and the meaning of each episode in the personal saga of Emma Bovary, beautiful and given to romanticism but in other ways not truly remarkable.  What a lot of havoc romanticism can cause!  The songs are abundant, and carry us effectively through the emotional phases of the narrative;  musically they were somewhat expectable.  For me, the best of the songs are the ones that are tough and “realistic.”   

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Review | Donnybrook! The Musical of the Movie The Quiet Man | Music and Lyrics by Johnny Burke | Book by Robert E. McEnroe | Directed by Charlotte Moore | Based on The Quiet Man, Short Story by Maurice Walsh | Irish Repertory Theatre

The world doesn’t need this musical.  Set in a fictional Irish village, Innisfree, in the 1920’s, it’s about the “cute Irish,” and their quaint ways including the great fun of settling conflicts with a brutal, free-for-all fight — a “donnybrook.”

The central idea, from Maurice Walsh’s 1933 Saturday Evening Post short story, is interesting — an Irish-American boxer, having killed a man and determined never to fight again, returns to his Irish village where he’s forced into a fight mandated by custom (the “donnybrook”) in order to uphold the honor of his village bride. 

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Review | Working, A Musical | From the Book by Studs Terkel | Adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso | Contributions by Gordo Greenberg | Prospect Theater Company | 59E59 Theaters

… singing about work …

People talked about working in Studs Terkel’s oral history book of 1974, Working:  People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do — in Working, the musical, they sing about it.

It’s a great idea — as composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz — of Godspell and Wicked —  thought when he first brought Working to the stage not long after the publication of Terkel’s book.  Revised and performed through the years, in its current version it’s an engaging and at times moving series of fine musical numbers (though I wish there were no rhymes, see below), beautifully performed by a cast of six who, all in all, take the parts of twenty-six characters and sing in the ensemble.

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Review | Odyssey, The Epic Musical | Matt Britten Director, Book and Lyrics | Dimitri Landrain Composer, Vocal Arrangements | Daniel Sefik Music Director, Additional Lyrics | Marianne Ward Set Designer, Scenic Paint Charge | Araca Project | American Theater of Actors

… a big musical on its way …

Odyssey calls itself an epic musical and it is.  It has the look of a musical headed to Broadway and — with some strengthening — it will get there. Meanwhile, it’s tremendous fun!

First of all, the set is gorgeous.  The show is playing in a fairly small theater but the stage is vast and the set uses all of it in a seemingly serendipitous, free flowing way to suggest the sea, the islands in it, the voyages across it, and the high realm of the gods and the earthy realm of humans.  It’s a set that conveys the complexity and exhilaration of existence – it’s wonderful, and keeps you on the journey even when occasionally the play gets a little waterlogged.  Nets, sails and figureheads — it has lots of blue and turquoise and one wants to be there.  (You can even get the flavor in the design of their web page.)

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Josh Grisetti and the cast of Enter Laughing, The Musical.  Photo by Jerry Lamonica

Review | Enter Laughing, The Musical | Book by Joseph Stein | Music & Lyrics by Stan Daniels | Music Direction by Phil Reno, Music Arrangements & Orchestrations by Matt Castle | Direction & Musical Staging by Stuart Ross | Bay Street Theatre, Sag Harbor, Long Island

I never saw anything funnier than Enter Laughing. The situations are hilarious, the songs are witty, and the cast is out of sight perfect.  If you enjoy laughing, really, you have to see this.   It has  only one “message”:  the life-affirming power of pure fun. 

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I Married Wyatt Earp

Review | I Married Wyatt Earp | Musical and Book by Thomas Edward West and Sheilah Rae | Lyrics by Sheila Rae | Music by Michelle Brourman | Prospect Theater Company and New York Theatre Barn

I Married Wyatt Earp

Throwing convention to the winds, a girl from a well-to-do San Francisco Jewish family joins a traveling theater troupe to get herself to the wild west, where she meets and marries, well, common law, Wyatt Earp — what a promising idea for a musical!

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Opera Review | Seance on a Wet Afternoon | Opera with Music and Libretto by Stephen Schwartz | New York City Opera

I thought an opera, Seance on a Wet Afternoon, would likely be an exciting stretch for a talented musical theater composer and lyricist like Stephen Schwartz, author of Godspell, Pippin and Wicked, but that’s not how it turns out.  The singing and acting, especially that of Lauren Flanigan as the medium and Melody Moore as Rita Clayton, is on a high level and the two children, Bailey Grey as Adriana and Michael Kepler Meo as Arthur, are impressive, but everybody could use a better opera.

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