Monday, March 12, 2018

Weekly Margin, 2018 W10: Carousel, Escape to Margaritaville, The Signature Project, The Bloody Deed of 1857

3/06/18: Carousel
What: Since Lincoln Center and Bartlett Sher are busy with My Fair Lady this season, Jack O'Brien is in charge of the current prestige Rodgers & Hammerstein revival. Fiercely independent Julie Jordan falls in love with charismatic rogue and carnival barker Billy Bigelow. They marry, but it's a tense partnership, with his violent temper making everyone fear for Julie's happiness and safety. After learning of Julie's pregnancy, Billy agrees to aid in a robbery that would help him support his family, but when it goes south, he commits suicide to avoid imprisonment. In the afterlife, he is given the chance to redeem his existence and help the family he left behind, fifteen years later.
And? I don't like this show. I never have. I saw it as a young child and had an instantaneous recoil against a narrative about a man who foolishly ruins the lives of his entire family, but then the show wants to redeem him. I wanted none of it. I still don't want much of it. So my repulsion to the content aside, I will say: I respect the craft I see Hammerstein the bookwriter doing, experimenting with form, having scenes that seamlessly shift between song and spoken word - a clear antecedent to Sondheim and his collaborators. This production is solidly anchored by the heartbreaking earnestness of Jessie Mueller's Julie, the perfectly-delivered soliloquy of Billy by Joshua Henry, and the amazingly hilarious and heartfelt Carrie as performed by Lindsay Mendez (my GOD, these three). The rest of the cast was uneven - neither the ballet dancers nor the opera star are particularly good actors, but they're good at the dancing and the singing, respectively. Outside of a few isolated small personal interactions, I was not particularly fond of the staging of the show ("Blow High, Blow Low" was a high point, however), or of the set design. Also it's Carousel. [further note: it's still in previews, and I've been told they're experimenting with different revisions of the script, so the production that opens might be different from what I saw]

3/07/18: Escape to Margaritaville
What: A new musical based around the song catalog of Jimmy Buffet (some classics, some new material, if my understanding is correct). Workaholic Rachel takes her bff Tammy on a week-long bachelorette holiday to a tiny island with a volcano which may or may not erupt. While there, both women find romance in unexpected places. Also everyone drinks a lot.
And? I mean ... if you want to see a brightly-colored musical with songs by Jimmy Buffet and don't care if there's an actual story or conflict, this is a show you might enjoy. It was kind of fun seeing it on blizzard night - we hardy few who made it there were invited to move in close and enjoy. The show is harmless; I was mostly bored. Also, I managed to make a lot of my friends hilariously angry when I announced on Facebook that until that night I didn't realize Jimmy Hoffa and Jimmy Buffet were two separate men. So that was fun.

Andre Ward, center, as Jamal. Photo by David Gordon.

3/09/18: The Signature Project
What: Dubliner Patrick Dunning has been working on a massive mural for the past twenty-five years, made entirely out of 171 4x4 canvases covered in signatures. He tours these canvases around, gathering further signatures and stories to tell, in this multimedia performance of visual art, storytelling, music, and dance, in the ongoing quest to complete his magnum opus.
And? A striking examination of art, what we see, and what is "beyond the visible light." Full review here.
Patrick Dunning in front of a projection of his vision for the final work.
Photo by Ingrid Butler.

3/10/18: The Bloody Deed of 1857
What: in 1857, Dr. Harvey Burdell was violently murdered in his home, and his betrothed, Emma Cunningham, was accused of the crime. In a parlor on the posh Colonnade Row, patrons are invited to a seance where the ghosts of the Burdell and Cunningham linger, trapped by their unresolved relationship and the truth of Burdell's death. Playwright Elise Gainer adapts and stars in this environmental true crime story.
And? Ultimately, I think I liked the aesthetic more than the content and performance of this piece. It's a very intimate space, and the control of light and the audience's eye is well-crafted, as well as the use of sound and space by the ensemble of Shadow Actors. But there was an under-rehearsed quality to some of the scenes which made it hard to invest in the characters and the mystery they were trying to solve. The performance also has a pretty cool framing element - both a pre- and post-performance ghost tour of the neighborhood by the engaging Meghan Sara Karre.
The cast of The Bloody Deed of 1857. Photo by JJ Ignotz.

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