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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
This project was suggested by two short stories by The New Yorker contributor Deborah Eisenberg whose pungent prose, noted for characters who are not particularly likeable and lack fulfilling relationships, lends a certain freshness to the book of this 90-minute musical. Since the lyrics are also credited to composer Michael John LaChiusa, it's difficult to assign credit but the fingerprints of The New Yorker are all over the dialogue, albeit slightly smudged. As Charlotte's new friend, Kathy (Dina Morishita), says, "I know it's gotten crappy, but this is still New York. The whole point of living here is to enjoy yourself more."
Charlotte meets the expected assortment of quirky New York characters. Besides the model-lovely Kathy, there's her gay friend Marco (Chad Kimball), sexy John Paul (German Santiago) , Cinder (Samantha Shelton), a psychotic screamer whose only recommendation is that a friend of a friend told Charlotte she had a room to rent; Charlotte's love-lorn boss Mr. Bunder (Gregory Jbara) and Anne Frank (Brooke Tansley), a totally disposable character. All the cast play many smaller parts and compose the ensemble.
The book is so fragmented, with some of it seeming inapplicable to Charlotte, that one wonders if LaChiusa wrote the songs first and wrapped some story strands around it. There seems no reason for the Anne Frank character, either thematically or as someone Charlotte encounters. Some of the songs are well worth struggling to include, such as the lovely ballad By the Way.
Directed with crisp comic acumen by Kirsten Sanderson assisted by Jane Lanier's humorous choreography which takes well-spaced advantage of the space. The best one-liners are in the gym ("I didn't pace myself today.") and while jogging.
The cast is musically sound, though Alice Ripley never made me believe Charlotte was a writer. Jbara made a touching Mr. Bunder trying to drown his loneliness in Martinis. German Santiago's sexy dance as John Paul and his friendly news stand owner brightened the production. Charlotte's long-time relationship with Robert is made understandable by Torti's sensuous good looks and her defection by his suave condescension. Like Charlotte, Little Fish is struggling to become a flying fish. However, it wears its rue with a difference and the polished production is a plus.
Editor's Note: We first saw this fish struggle to fly up four years ago at New York's Second Stage. Apparently, it hasn't made it yet. To read that review go here.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide