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A CurtainUp Review
Fortunately multi-talented Zaitchik takes a detour from the most obvious and the more typical plot contrivances. He has written an excellent book and composed a bright score with an abundance of snappy lyrics that take us to the unexpected. Soon enough, we are immersed in the reality of the young lovers'short-comings and the personal growth they desperately need to experience before a lasting commitment is made.
Here is a smart well constructed small-scaled new musical that may seem at times old fashioned in its parts and in its perspective. But I believe and hope that it is also modern enough to disarm the most jaded sophisticates. Six talented performers, no scenery to speak of and three off stage musicians and one on-stage trumpet player are all we need for this bitter-sweet romance set in Manhattan in the present...and presented in the round in Roundabout's Black Box Theatre. It has been beautifully directed by Michael Berresse. Various locations are presented by some simple but effective projections.
What stands out early on is that Zaitchik's principle characters are not only seriously flawed and essentially immature but also complicated in ways that may surprise you. He has done a bang-up job making us care about these young people who try to cover up their problems and keep their relationship from imploding.
Harry (Adam Kantor) is a song-writer who made a lot of money writing just one commercial jingle. He lacks faith in his own abilities as a composer but he has been able to open a bar where he plays piano and sings. Harry is instantly smitten with Louise (Emily Walton) when he sees her in the chorus of musical and engages with her after the show. Louise is pretty and charming but also harboring a lack of faith in her talent. They connect and fall in love. Running the bar is Paul (Jay Armstrong Johnson) Harry's friend since childhood. Paul is concerned that Harry isn't upfront with Louise when he sees how serious Harry is about Louise.
On occasion the action as well as the music and lyrics become a trifle too cute. But the balance comes with the inevitable dark turn of the plot that is mostly dealt with in Act II. Every one of the musical's fourteen songs are notable for being character-driven, melodic and obviously inspired by an era that embraced such a radical idea.
Sitting so close up to the performers in this intimate setting works quite well as they are all excellent embodying as they do characters with depth. Kantor, whom you may recall as Telephone Guy in The Band's Visit , hides his issues but not his fine singing or his character's ability to make us feel his pain as he unravels. Walton also sings beautifully and is winning as the aspiring, if insecure, ingénue. Johnson has some fine and revelatory dramatic moments as Paul. Aury Krebs and Matt Dallal are convincing in multiple roles. The ensemble works as smoothly as do the harmonies.
A lovely touch is the inclusion of Harry's dog (also called Paul) and who is, nevertheless, a very amusing presence thank to the sounds emanating from Mike Nappi's trumpet. I am going to quibble about the unattractive and ill-fitting costumes designed for both Kantor and Walton who deserve to look as smart and snappy as the show they are in. All in all , this is a show very worth seeing. The many workshop trials have produced a musical that has grown with it characters and is now tight and engrossing for almost a full two and a half hours.
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Darling Grenadine Book, Music & Lyrics by Daniel Zaitchik Directed and Choreographed by Michael Berresse
Cast: Matt Dallal (Man)
Jay Armstrong Johnson (Paul), Adam Kantor (Harry), Aury Krebs (Woman), Mike Nappi (The Trumpet Player), Emily Walton (Louise)
Set Design: Tim Mackabee
Costume Design: Emily Rebholz
Lighting Design: Lap Chi Chu
Sound Design: Brian Ronan
Projection Design: Edward T. Morris
Orchestrations: Mat Moisey
P.S.M.: Bess Marie Glorioso
Music Director: David Gardos
Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes including intermission.
Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre/Black Box Theatre, 111 West 46th Street.
All tickets for Darling Grenadine are $30 General Admission tickets and are available by calling 212.719.1300, online at roundabouttheatre.org, in person at any Roundabout box office: American Airlines Theatre Box office (227 West 42nd Street); The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre (111 W 46th Street) and Studio 54 (254 West 54th Street). For groups of 10 or more please call 212-719-9393 x 365 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Performances: Tuesday through Sunday evenings at 7:00PM with Saturday matinees at 1:30PM and Sunday matinees at 2:00PM.
From 01/16/20 Opened 02/10/20 Ends 03/15/20
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 02/08/20
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