There was so much NYMF love to go around that we have a guest reviewer! Reesa Graham is a theatrical director, literary manager and resident director of Manhattan Shakespeare Project, and one of the most prolific Twitter users on Earth. (Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself.) Reesa bought a share from The Pirates of Finance, while I took a trip to Legacy Falls and waited on Standby.
THE PIRATES OF FINANCE
The Pirates of Finance is a successful homage to Gilbert and Sullivan’s turn of the century operettas. Set in present-day Wall Street, the story follows Fredrick Freemarket as his Wall Street firm is bought out by Geoffrey Behemoth and the pirates of finance. Hilarity, singing (including a brilliant parody of “Modern Major General”), and a set of Gilbert and Sullivan-esque improbable reveals ensue.
Preston Ellis’s Fredrick Freemarket was the perfect combination of charming and goofy. Geoffrey Behemoth (Christopher DeAngelis) was easy to hate in all the best ways. The six-person chorus of Huey (Carter Lynch), Dewey (David Macaluso), Louie (Alex Krasser), April (Sydney Ransom), May (Janice Landry), and June (Lynn Craig) were maybe my favorite part of the show. Their choreography was clean and crisp, their songs well sung, and their acting outstanding.
Overall, the cast was strong, with voices blending well – except for one of the cast members. She sang in a classical style, with lots of vibrato, which would not have necessarily been bad except the rest of the cast didn’t use vibrato save for very specific moments. She stuck out like a sore thumb because her voice never blended with the rest of the cast. The choice, either hers or director Gary Slavin, to have her so stylistically different from the rest of the cast was so jarring, it was almost like nails on a chalkboard anytime she was in a group number.
David Goldstein’s set was minimalistic: just five tall wooden frames and a desk that moved to create different spaces within the firm, and it was perfect – just enough to create the world of the musical without overshadowing the musical itself. I cannot say the same about the costumes, however. It felt almost like Amy Price had not read the script before dressing the women (the men, in power suits sans jackets, were good). The lead female, Elsie Gardner (Heather Lundstedt) was in a peasant blouse, shorts and sandals… even though in our introduction to her, we learn that she has been sitting in the lobby of a Wall Street finical firm to meet the new boss and try to get a job. While I understand the idea of putting Elsie in clothes that are not “Wall Street” clothes, putting her in such casual clothes against the rest of a professionally dressed cast was extraordinarily distracting. Furthermore, the trio of chorus girls (April, May, and June) who tell us in their introductory song that they only wear haute couture, were dressed in black skirts, button up shirts, and matching shoes – as far from haute couture as you can get.
I mention these few items because the good things were so good that the weaker elements really stood out. Overall, it was an entertaining show, full of energy and life – a show that I think the actual Gilbert and Sullivan would have been proud to inspire.
As someone who squealed a little too loudly when I learned that former ABC shows All My Children and One Life to Live would be born again on Hulu, I had a fun afternoon watching a matinee performance of Legacy Falls at the PTC Performance Space. Legacy Falls follows the cast and crew of a long-running soap opera of the same name. Edward Trafford (Kevin Spirtas) is the Susan Lucci of the group: he’s been with the show since its start thirty years ago, and he is tired of playing Jack Monroe. He might just get his wish, as network producer Frankie (Erin Leigh Peck) plans to boost ratings by filming an earthquake-themed live episode—and kill many of the characters off in the process.
Kevin Spirtas’ performance as Edward Trafford/Jack Monroe is straight out of a soap opera—in a good way. He completely embodies the charisma of Jack Monroe while giving Edward, a somewhat jaded actor, a realistic vulnerability. His casting in the role was perfect, especially since Spirtas is a soap opera star in his own right as Dr. Craig Wesley on Days of Our Lives. Other performing highlights include Erin Leigh Peck, who has great comedic timing (and a voice to match) as Frankie; Wilson Bridges, whose sincerity as Edward’s love interest Daniel gives him the Best Boyfriend in Musical Theatre Award; and Jonathan Hawkins and Liz Fye, who can play dumb oh-so well as the younger cast members in the soap.
Legacy Falls has the trappings of a traditional musical, and it doesn’t have many surprises. It excels when it parodies the high drama of the soaps, with overacting (on purpose), stating the obvious, and mentioning convoluted storylines. I think it can go even further, with bigger hair, bigger drama, and bigger dreams for Edward and the others on and off the set.
Favorite songs: “Whatever,” a funny solo about Amber’s (Liz Fye) troubles as a young actress, and “Usually,” a beautiful ballad sung by Edward and Daniel.
Last, but definitely not least, is Standby, a rock musical about five strangers stuck in an airport terminal who are going to have a less-than-ordinary journey to their destination. (Think Lost, if the unlucky travelers of Oceanic Flight 815 were still waiting to board the plane.)
At first, Standby seems to be a simple affair. The six-person cast is economical, as is the set: some chairs, a podium, and two grey doors that suggest the gate of an airport. But the characters aren’t simple, as I quickly grew invested in all of their stories. The cast gives nuanced and full-bodied performances, with full voices to match. No one ever falls into the musical theatre trap of presentational, shallow acting. Instead, they portray real people in an airport—who just happen to break into songs that go to the same rock musical school as Spring Awakening and Next to Normal. Speaking of which, the songs, written by Amy Baer (music), Keith Robinson (music), Alfred Solis (lyrics), and Mark-Eugene Garcia (lyrics), are begging for a cast recording. Pleaseandthankyou.
Direction by Carlos Armesto and choreography by Elisabetta Spuria keeps everyone’s movements from looking stale or over-stylized, and the book (by Alfred Solis and Mark-Eugene Garcia) ties all the loose ends together. With its brilliant concept and flawless execution, Standby is one of the best new shows out this season. There are two performances still remaining, so see it while you can.
Favorite Songs: ALL OF THEM! But If I had to pick — “Home By Now,” “Last Goodbye,” “Travel On,” “All That Bad,” and “To Feel Alive.”
For more info on NYMF and their list of this year’s shows, check out their website: http://www.nymf.org/
For our other posts about NYMF this year, check out our NYMF 2013 tag.