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|A CurtainUp Review
There's something endearing about small musicals put on in intimate setting and propelled by fresh young talent. Some fall between the cracks, like a delicious film-noire entitled Gun Metal Blues which vanished after an all too brief run in a dingy Greenwich Village theater some seasons ago. Some of these shows do win strong audience and critical support but can't quite make the leap to Broadway--like last season's Playwright Horizon production of Violet. This season's case in point is The Last Session which moved from off-off-Broadway to Off-Broadway but is slated to close when its present landlord takes back the house. There's also the excellent nostalgic revue, The Show Goes On which has extended its limited run at the Theater at St. Peter's Church and features the creators of the longest running small musical of them all, The Fantasticks. (See links to reviewed shows at the end of this review).
And now there's Lincoln Plaza with the subtitle "story based on La Traviata" to remind us of the all-time small to major musical success of another downtown show based on a famous opera. Except for the operaticl link and the East Village theater setting, however, Lincoln Plaza is as different from Rent as a moonbeam from lightning. It is less a gritty, rock musical about downtown types than a romantic soap opera with an uptown setting and sound. The characters range from upscale in-the-loop types to distant relations to those in The Life
. When you consider Lincoln Plaza's assets, this might well be a case of vive la difference. Christine Rae as Vi is an attractive and strong-voice leading lady. Markus Maurette's set design is quite ambitious for this rather awkward space, revolving from an an outdoor restaurant in Lincoln Center to Southampton. The musical ensemble does well by the often pleasant score.
Unfortunately, the liabilities outweigh the show's strengths. While the book does manage to stick to its operatic source, it never soars to its heights. Making the leading man, Allen Greene, (Ray Cullom), an opera singer so he can burst into the Traviata Drinking song might work, if his voice were of operatic quality and his persona more magnetic. Jerry Coyle as Allen's self-righteous father lacks not only verve but conviction. Lisa Roxanne Walters as Vi's good-hearted hooker friend and Ralph Pezullo as Allen's agent are competent but as trapped as everyone else in a book that never quite catches fire. The best supporting performances come from the two dancers, Jack Tynan and Emily Burch, and the band singer Israel Cruz.
The already mentioned ambitiousness of the set turns out to be its weakness since nothing about it seems to work easily or smoothly. It creaks rather than turns, and as directed by Mark Marcante, the cast moves and stomps back and forth in front, in back and on the set in a most distracting manner. Maybe the conceptual team would have done better with a few bar stools and a narrator and if they'd left La Traviata to the Metropolitan and tapped into their own creative wellsprings.
Links to Shows Mentioned Here and Reviewed by CurtainUp
The Last Session
The Show Goes On