Sunday, October 07, 2007
The story of a Jewish boxer whose faith is tested when he alienates his family and his people, Cutman isn't only the best and most exciting show I saw at NYMF. It's also one of the best new musicals I've seen so far this year. The narrative (which tracks the boxer's rise to prominence and the aftermath of a devastating mistake he makes in pursuit of the welterweight title) is straightforward and simple but the themes (of personal sacrifice and of the importance of faith and family) are big and resonant, a combination that makes for riveting, accessible musical drama in the right hands. These are the right hands. The book (by Jared Coseglia, from a story he conceived with Cory Grant who also stars) is solidly built on the sturdiest of foundations: all the relationships between the well-defined characters have been thought out and effectively dramatized. There's great know-how in the musical's construction: for one thing, the songs come when they should and never feel superfluous. The musical score (by Drew Brody) is revelatory: it miraculously manages the melodic sweep and the concise storytelling of traditional show music but with the daring contemporary twist of combining some properties of both Hebrew and urban music. In other words it snugly and convincingly fits these characters and their world. My complaints, that the second act runs long and that one number therein feels exposition-heavy, are only quibbles, and I haven't a single quibble about anyone in the ensemble, which is anchored by Cory Grant's sensational, affecting performance as the boxer. Yes I'll say it: Cutman is a knockout.