Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Closed But Not Forgotten

Nellie McKay: Silent Spring--It's Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature: Nellie McKay fits into no category. You can't describe her by saying she's like so-and-so crossed with so-and-so. If you tried to explain her in an elevator pitch, you'd need a roundtrip or two to the top of the Empire State Building to do her justice.

Nellie McKay is Nellie McKay. She combines charm, talent, imagination, determination, theatricality, a desire to make the world a better place, and a touch of nuttiness to provide shows unlike anything else you'll see in a theatre or cabaret. Her latest, which just ended at Feinstein's, is a tribute to/bio of environmentalist Rachel Carson using slightly adjusted standards (eg, "I'm in love with a wonderful sky"), her own music, prerecorded voiceovers, and an extremely game and talented four-man band (Alexi David on bass, Kenneth Salters on percussion, Cary Park on guitar, and Tivon Pennicott on sax and flute) to tell Carson's story. It's an odd piece, often delightful, sometimes sad. The highlights are the songs, which include "What'll I Do," Would You Like to Be the Love of My Life," "Ohio," "Anything You Can Do" (sung as a solo talking to herself!), and "Ten Cents a Dance." 

Keep an eye out for McKay's next appearance; she is well worth seeing.

Nellie McKay's website is here; Feinstein's is here.

Pipe Dream. Pipe Dream's book is dumb almost beyond comprehension. Boy meets girl; boy is separated from girl by a bunch of flimsy, pointless obstacles; boy gets girl in an anticlimactic, unmusicalized moment. I understand that the Encores! production probably utilized an abbreviated book, but it's the plot points that are problematic.

Meanwhile, a dull-witted guy sings about being a dull-witted guy; a bunch of happy prostitutes sing about being happy prostitutes, and the Flophouse Gang sings about being the Flophouse Gang. The melodies sound so much like Richard Rodger's other works that you keep expecting to hear, oh, "Don't Marry Me" from Flower Drum Song or "People Will Say We're in Love" from Oklahoma. Oscar Hammerstein's lyrics only occasionally rise above moon-June-spoon.

But the Encores! production was a pleasant-enough evening in the theatre. Laura Osnes sang beautifully and did what she could with her inconsistent, underwritten character. Leslie Uggams was charming. Will Chase sang well. The chorus was good.

Parade at Nyack High
Photo: Adam Littman
Question: Why did Tom Wopat wear a baseball cap pulled down low for most of the play? Is director Marc Bruni unaware that City Center has a mezzanine and balcony, and that the people up there might want to see Wopat's face?  If I were a Wopat fan in the higher reaches of the theatre, I would feel very ripped off. As it is, as a non-Wopat fan sitting way up, I felt quite disrespected.

Parade. The people at Nyack High School once again reached for the stars and once again grabbed themselves a few. Director Joseph Egan's decision to stage Jason Robert Brown's Parade was almost insanely ambitious for a high school, but Nyack High's production was lucid, well-paced, well-acted (particularly by freshman Evan Rocco in the lead), well-sung, and quite moving. Bravo, all. (Full disclosure: my niece was production stage manager on the show.)

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