Who are the real actors of NYC? After watching the lightly entertaining, largely painless new musical, The Real Actors of NYC, I'd have to say that the answer is: Klea Blackhurst and Lorinda Lisitza. Composer/lyricist/book writer Karlan Judd has given his cast little to work with, but these two women bring their characters to vivid life. It's not that they make them three-dimensional and real: it's not that sort of show. But they make them hilarious and full-blooded and a hell of a lot of fun to be with. They're terrific.
But let me backtrack. What is The Real Actors of NYC? It is the story of young performers, walking off their tired feet, pounding Forty-Second Street, to be in a show. Along the way, they get their hearts broken and their hopes dashed while auditioning for such horrors as Valley Girls The Musical and The One-Armed Surfer Girl. Finally, it seems that they have their big break within reach, when.... well, that's the play, and Judd wouldn't want me to give it away. Suffice to say that The Real Actors of NYC is a tongue-in-cheek satire of/salute to musical theatre and show business.
However, the satire isn't clever, and the characters are generic. The shows aims for madcap, but doesn't get there, and odd mistakes are made. For example, the song "Actor Combat," a big number, is sloppy, with the title phrase, repeated over and over, not sitting quite right on the music. Another big number, "Keep on Going Along," is shockingly bad; was there no one to advise Judd that it was time to go back to the drawing board? A third big number, "Goodnight My Pretties," adds nothing to the overlong show (however, Blackhurst gives it the same respect and power she might give "Rose's Turn," so at least it's a pleasure to sit through). The scenery is underutilized, with little effort to distinguish locations. A few members of the cast lack the vocal presence and personality to shine in a musical, and director Max Friedman seems to have provided little help. The show pummels itself with ineffective shtick.
A good pruning could improve it significantly.
Part of me feels that I'm being harsh. A lot of hard work went into this show, and parts were fun. On the other hand, at least 20 people walked out during intermission. On the other other hand, I loathed Something Rotten, so perhaps I'm not the right audience here. On the fourth hand, I adore Forbidden Broadway in all of its brilliant incarnations.
If you think this might be your cup of tea, please don't let me stop you from giving it a try. Even if you end up hating the show, you still get to see Blackhurst and Lisitza, which is certainly a good thing.
(7th row, press ticket)