Monthly Archives: August 2014

My Life Is a Musical: a review

*published on 22 Aug 2014 on The Edge

Kathleen ELizabeth Monteleone, Justin Matthew Sargent, Howie Michael Smith

Kathleen ELizabeth Monteleone, Justin Matthew Sargent, Howie Michael Smith  (Source:Lenny Stucker)

 

It is not often that one travels to the theatrical hinterlands to encounter pitch-perfect musical comedy, but at Sag Harbor’s Bay Street theater song, laughter and sophisticated humor are in the salty air.“My Life is a Musical” with book, lyrics and music penned by fresh-faced Adam Overett, threatens to be a hit well beyond a summer love affair.

This show’s premise is that a young accountant named Parker, played with dorky aplomb and great singing chops by Howie Michael Smith, has a secret. He hears every thing as if he were in a musical. Overett took as the nugget for creating this new work the idea that many folks really hate the way in a musical everyone will just burst into song willy-nilly to describe any and every situation. Overett said, “I thought what would it be like if this was the reality for one person, this was their reality, but no one else could hear it.” And thus “My Life is a Musical” was hatched.

The Bay Street Theater is the perfect crucible for launching new work and in their current season they have premiered two. The space is an intimate semi-proscenium theater where ushers even offer blankets to the audience in what might be a hyper air-conditioned environment for some. This show unfolds the inner world of Parker as he shares his dreaded secret that every encounter he has, from an innovative bus commute to passersby, all share their lives in song.

This tortures Parker so he chooses to live as solitary a life as he can to avoid the dreaded soundtrack. He is thrust into a musical reality when his boss assigns him to be the accountant for a rock band on tour. Hijinx and musical marvelousness ensue.

The small cast, each brimming with talent, charisma and diversity, light up the stage as they embody a panoply of characters from Hasidim to admiral, roadie to cop to secret spy. The characters are all really caricatures, which only adds to the fun. The character of Zac, the erstwhile rock star, is played with enormous ego and a belting voice by Justin Matthew Sargent and the manager, JT, who loves music and the band, but can’t carry a tune in a bucket, is the winsome, talented Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone. (As an aside, when did every actor begin using three names? )

The band, called Zeitgeist, goes on tour with the accountant in tow and Parker is transformed when the rock star cannot compose a song. Well, since Parker hears music everywhere, songs spew forth. And in this case they are backed up by the best little four piece band on the East End of Long Island, led by conductor Vadim Feichtner.

Feichtner is also the show’s musical director and has worked recently and often with the marvelous William Finn, whose music is often echoed in this piece. This is a real complement coming from a Finn fanatic.

As well as being musically satisfying and hummable, this evening is so funny that the yucks and sustained guffaws resonated throughout the theater. There is a gem of a character called Randy who is a music blogger, but his secret life is that he sees everything through a glass darkly.

His life is a spy novel. He is constantly garbed in a fedora and trench coat, even over his pajamas, as he endeavors to dig up dirt on who is the real author behind Zeitgeist’s rocking song fame. Of course he does, and Parker is elevated to song meister, he gets the girl, and it no longer seems so horrible that his life is really a musical endeavor.

The show is supported by a small cast that plays many quick-change roles, all delineated with panache in the costuming genius of Amy Clark. Beards are tossed aside for conductor’s caps and the revolving door of a world filled with silly often comes with the perfect outfit. The set, designed by David Arsenault, is very simple but literally sets the stage for whimsy and farce, and is perfectly utilized by director and choreographer Marlo Hunter.

The show runs until August 31, but honestly if you don’t see this mounted soon in a theater on the smaller island of Manhattan, I’ll eat my hat — or my false beard.

“My Life is a Musical” runs through August 31 at The Bay Street Theater, 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor, NY 11963. For tickets or information, call 631-725-9500 or visitwww.baystreet.org/Performances/18/MY-LIFE-IS-A-MUSICAL.html

Fuerza Bruta “Wayra”

*published on 31 July 2014 on The EDGE

The cast of 'Wayra'

The cast of ‘Wayra’  (Source:Jacob Cohl)

 

Cell phones are popping selfies and snagging videos from the moment the very young, hip, multi-lingual crowd bounces into the lobby bar at the Daryl Roth Theatre on East 15 Street. This gang is ready to paaaartey and the show hasn’t even begun.

The final installment of the De La Guarda trilogy, which began back in 2007 with the show “Fuerza Bruta,” is an Argentine-founded, multi-sensory spectacular created by Artistic Director Diqui James and Musical Director Gaby Kerpel. And the beat continues undiluted with “Wayra.”

This is a spectacle for our digital age. There are no regulations against the constant parade of photos, except no flash, and phones held in the air emit a ghostly light, which covers the audience as they huddle or move en masse, like a huge proteus across the theater. There is no real premise other than loud, sometimes excruciatingly blaring fun.

The show is comprised of an equal number of musicians, actors, dancers and a T-shirt clad crew of extremely young men and women who usher the audience, raise curtains, move furniture and I am sure create a completely safe environment for all involved. And that seems at times a daunting task.

The show never stops throbbing and the audience is on their feet for the entire 90 minutes. Everyone claps, sways, screams and moves to either avoid the cascading water, the huge fans blowing confetti or to touch the enormous plexi- glass ceiling that descends upon all creating a thin tissue between audience and the scantily clad, well waxed dancers who writhe in the sloshing waters above our heads.

The entire time a beat that could rival any ’80s disco causes the room to pulse and the audience to assume the role of willing drum major. All that was missing was the pervasive aroma of poppers to bring the dance floor alive, redolent of another age.

But this is the 21st Century and there was pulsing not dancing, and constant archiving for future personal use. The music is played on huge kettle drums and South American flutes as well as guitars and electronic synthesizers and it augments the sense of endless wonder that is attempted by rolling floors, aerial contortions and undulating walls of Mylar that shoot dancers in arcs above our heads.

But alas there is no plot or glue that moves the evening along. Perhaps that is an old-fashioned constraint and desire, but spectacle for its own sake grows tired even if it is only for an hour and a half. Albeit standing and craning upward or ducking to avoid torrents of water, which can also be a tad taxing, thus render play clothes and comfy shoes a must.

At the end, the crowd is in a frenzy and the performers and techies throng the stages clapping to elicit a musical encore. The bar is thrown open and drinks are two-for-one and the party continues, spilling out into the summer night. Why not?

“Fuerza Bruta: Wayra” enjoys an extended run at the Daryl Roth Theatre, 101 East 15th Street in NYC. For information or tickets, call 212-239-6200 or visit www.fuerzabrutanyc.com