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A CurtainUp Review
Inner Voices: Solo Musicals
With the solo play metamorphosing from an occasional alternative to more populated stage presentations to a virtual flood, apparently there are those who think there's a place for the solo musical. Sheree Renee Scott's Everyday Rapture review of Off-Broadway production), which is making the leap to Broadway as a result of the Roundabout's need to quickly replace its aborted revival of Lips Together, Teeth Apart, is essentially a solo musical though there are 3 backup singers and a brief appearance by another performer to give this a more full bodied flavor. It also happens to be a charming little show, featuring a big talent and with an engaging story.
Unfortunately, the two solo musicals paired for Primary Stages 2nd endeavor with this genre, do little to further its future. While the performers, especially Judith Blazer as the weirdly named Whida Peru, do their utmost to turn their solos into worthy star turns, neither of the book writers of these musical playlets have given them much to work with —neither have the composers whose songs enter the ear without sticking long enough to make a lasting impression.
The two plays are connected mainly by virtue of the economical casting though I suppose you could say it's an evening about two women coming to grips with life's blows.
Heidi Blickenstaff, best known as a member of the little musical that could, Title of Show, is first up in Mosaic in which she plays a song writer in crisis over her career and her mortality. The format, which has her blogging out her life history on her Apple laptop, is designed to make this trendy and contemporary. But what should be trendy turns out to be tedious and, above all, extremely static since it ties Blickenstaff's Ruth to her desk, most of the time looking at her computer rather than connecting with the audience. The focus is too often on the screen, including pages of text that most of the audience even in this modest-sized theater can't read.
Photo James Leynse
Though billed at 30-minutes in real time, Mosaic ran about ten minutes longer at the performance I attended-- and given the blander than bland book and the forgettable songs, it seemed to run even more over the announced time.
As the stagehands removed the Mosaic props and filled Theater A's playing area with all sorts of colorful props, I had hopes that the second of these "inner voices" would be more theatrical and engaging, a reasonable hope given that Judith Blazer who brings a resume of dynaimic performances is the soloist. Blazer does indeed enter the intriguingly cluttered set with a bang— a vision of East Village diva chic and a persona as oddly mysterious as the inexplicably falling of a chair and bursting of a balloon.
Photo by James Leynse).
Blazer is fun to watch as a woman who's as strange as her name. There are some comic touches as when she pours her lover's ashes into a big cookie jar and deals with a cough that sounds like a death rattle by lighting a cigarette. But, ultimately, this is a tragic story of a woman locked into her weirdly cluttered world that's never fully developed. Most egregiously, it lacks any songs worthy of Blazer's musical talents so that all the colorful props and seances don't keep you from looking at your watch after about twenty minutes.
Inner Voices: Solo Musicals|
Director (both shows): Jonathan Butterell
Mosaic with Book & Lyrics by Cheri Steinkellner
Music & Lyrics by Georgia Stitt
Cast: Heidi Blickenstaff as Ruth
Musical direction by Andy Boroson, J. Oconer Navarro
Whida Peru: Resurrection Tangle
Book & Lyrics by David Simpatico
Music by Josh Schmidt
Cast: Judith Blazer as Whida Peru
Musical direction bySteve Marzullo.
Running time: approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes plus intermission
Primary Stages at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues)
From 4/02/10; opening 4/06/10; closing 4/24/10
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on 4/06 performance
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