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Writing for CurtainUp NYC Weather
|A CurtainUp Review
By Amanda Cooper
The nineteen songs are the meat here. Unfortunately it is lean and overcooked. They're meant to blow open some aspect of one of the eleven characters and reveal a pertinent social issue. The brief bits of dialogue are mere buffers between numbers, adding perhaps a laugh and serving as an awkward segue into the next number.
Dotty (a hoarse Verna Hampton) is a soccer mom who carries the stresses of her kids' games and has become an at-home control freak. Jody (a lively, solid Sheena Marie Oritz trapped in an annoying character) is a sixteen year-old white girl who may seem to have it all, but may snap any minute -- either from the pills she pours down her throat or from the overflow of teen queen media. Vid (an earnest and endearing Max Ferguson) is a wannabe documentary filmmaker, who is overcome with awe for the flashy, revealing work of Michael Moore. And of course one cannot forget Always Michael, the young, Michael Jackson obsessed fan who chooses to personify his hero at all times (an honorable impersonation by Jeremy Ladieri).
There is also the token lesbian, a white Rastafarian, an unexpectedly-educated young black man, and a handful of others, each with a song or two to call their own. This is Hair, but less successfully so. The 60s portrayed in Hair was messy and loving, scary and new; the new millennium in Cellphones can't seem to decide what it is, or even if it wants to be taken seriously. Is Matt Williams' choreography purposefully cheesy? Are we supposed to laugh at William Electric Black and Joel Diamond's overly repetitious choruses?
The most successful scene of the evening was Blade's song "Wanna have a Gun" about why she wanted to join Homeland Security. In it, a weak-voiced Judith Griegossies, who is on rollerblades throughout, sings about her love for the NRA, and her craving for that piece of metal power. The lyrics did not preach, and the up-tempo music played smartly against the violent content.
In case you're wondering why is this musical called Cellphones -- many of the characters use them to keep in touch with their non line-waiting lives. But more importantly, the shtickiest of planned shticks has audience members receiving calls on their own cellphones from the stage and awkwardly cajoled into a random conversation with an onstage character. These improv moments served no purpose for the production, but then again, the production itself did not seem to achieve any specific goal, either. Whatever messages writer/director Black wanted to convey became lost in the mess and mass of it all.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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