The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings

A CurtainUp Report
The New York Musical Festival (NYMF- 2017)
Shows Reviewed (Listed in order posted with * an asterisk placed before the title when a review is posted):*Freedom Riders | *Backbeard | *Peace Love and Cupcakes |-Generation Me |*A Wall Apart|*The Shakespearean Jazz Show | *Numbers Nerds | *Matthew McConnaughey v. the Devil | *My Dear Watson |
About this Page: The Annual New York Music Festival, NYMF, has turned into a teenager. As in the past, Curtainup will be grazing at the festival. So keep checking back for our reviews on what's hot, and what's not. All but one of the shows we're covering will be staged at either the Peter Sharp or the Acorn Theater, both conveniently next door to each other. The conveniently located venues is a nice first; a producer not wanting to risk having a show reviewed less welcome loss of transparency. For details on everything on offer, check out the Festival's website
Freedom Riders is a musical drama about the past that speaks eloquently to the present and ought to have a future.

With book by Richard Allen and songs by Allen and Taran Gray, Freedom Riders chronicles the civil rights initiative that successfully challenged segregation on buses in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

In a 1960 case, Boynton v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled access to interstate commercial transportation and related services to be a right of travelers, regardless of race or ethnicity. Bus lines in the South, however, weren't desegregating their services and state governments weren't enforcing the law.

In spring 1961, The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organized busloads of activists, African-American and Caucasian together, to bring the issue of desegregation of public transportation to a head. The vehicles carrying the so-called freedom riders plunged down highways from Montgomery, Ala., heading for New Orleans, La., defying the local authorities to stop them. The activists encountered resistance of varying degrees, from vulgar epithets to mob violence.

Freedom Riders portrays not only the harassment that riders faced but also the conflicts and complicated dynamics among the movers and shakers of CORE, SNCC, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the organization headed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Guy Lockard).

Allen's script delineates effectively the factions among the activists — the old guard (which is CORE), the current power base of the civil rights movement (King's SCLC), and the young Turks (SNCC). The action shifts back and forth between the rider's odyssey down south (where the activists are facing violence from both citizens and law enforcement personnel in Birmingham, Ala.) and the Washington, D.C. office of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (Barry Anderson).

Fearing the kind f national controversy triggered by school desegregation in Little Rock, Ark. late in the Eisenhowever administration, Attorney General Kennedy wants to keep the federal government out of the Alabama conflict. He professes to be on the side of the freedom riders, but is concerned about the trouble federal intervention could heap on his brother's presidential administration.

The two parts of the story — deep South and District of Columbia — come together when Kennedy sends his Justice Department colleague John L. Seigenthaler (Ciaran McCarthy) to Alabama to negotiate with Governor John Malcolm Patterson for state protection of the activists. In Alabama, Seigenthaler becomes personally acquainted with the activists and convinced of the urgency of their mission. In the end, he's integral to the success of their initiative.

Produced by Richard Allen Enterprises, Freedom Riders features a top-flight cast of 14 musical theater professionals, many playing two or more roles. The company's youthfulness reflects appropriately the youth of many among the real-life activists (a host of whom were students) and of members of the John F. Kennedy administration.

In stand-out performances, Lockard and Anderson quickly overcome the disadvantage of playing historical figures whom audiences know well from videotape and other media. Both have the stage presence and gravitas for the roles and both depict their characters' substantial flaws without becoming unsympathetic.

As Seigenthaler, McCarthy delivers the evening's most nuanced performance as a committed journalist slightly out of place in government service, torn between his liberal conscience and allegiance to Kennedy (who's not only his boss but also his close friend).

Brynn Williams brings dignity and subtle force to the role of Diane Nash, the former Fisk University student who was one of the organizers of the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins before undertaking leadership of the Freedom Rides. Though she has the appeal of a traditional musical-theater ingenue, Williams is thoroughly believable when the script pits her against the strong wills of King, Seigenthaler, and Kennedy.

In writing Freedom Riders, Allen and Gray have their eyes on an ambitious prize. Even their subtitle, The Civil Rights Musical, is overweening (note the assertiveness of that definite article): this isn't a civil rights musical, this is the civil rights musical.

Allen and Gray's score is varied, with country-inflected sounds, Broadway-style ballads, and stirring anthems. Presumably the book is still a work in progress. If so, it's likely to benefit from further development. There are characters — such as Eugene "Bull" Connor (Don Rey), the Birmingham Commissioner of Public Safety and villain of the musical — who are ciphers. There are moments, such as Kennedy's change of heart about federal intervention, in which the characters' precise motivations ought to be clearer. But what's on view at the New York Musical Festival is quite an accomplishment.

Freedom Riders offers a compelling account of a discrete chapter in the drama of the Civil Rights Movement. It illustrates how wretchedly our country has treated an enormous sector of the population in the past. And it reminds us (or at least it should) how savagely we're treating parts of our population, both citizens and noncitizens, now.

Running time: Two hours, including a 10 minute intermission. At the Acorn. Reviewed by Charles Wright at the August 3rd performance.

Blackbird. Subtlety isn't always the hallmark of a Festival production, given relatively limited ramp-up and preparation time, and when combined with a children's book —the hero of which is Backbeard, the "world's hairiest pirate" — the result isn't likely to admit of deep analysis. Sure enough, the Backbeard musical from Michael Musial (who also directs) with book from Larry Tuxbury, Brian Sheldon, and original Backbeard author Matthew McElligott isn't a triumph of understatement.

The seventy minute long work follows Backbeard in search of a new wardrobe, the acquisition of which (complete with a pet pig instead of a parrot) immediately draws the ridicule of his crew and the ire of the dreaded Pirate Council, which demands he follow the pirate handbook and return to the drab clothes expected of him. The, resultant conflict, whether to do what is expected of him or express his previously repressed sense of fashion, is the focus of the musical.

Obviously psychological depth isn't going to be forthcoming here. But if you can look past the eyeroll-inducing plot, there's some good news: Musial's music is solid if not overly memorable, and both directing and acting are well done.

As a director, Musial deserves particular credit for not letting his actors approach this ironically. Turn this into a campy Pirates of Penzance with a bunch of cynical winks and nods and the production would fail utterly. As it is, the performers deliver their roles professionally and good-humoredly, and it's hard not to smile at the reaction of the younger audience members, my daughter among them, to Backbeard's plight.

There's nothing particularly earth-shattering here, but in the end the show delivers a warm message competently, and you could do worse with a bit over an hour of your time than watch a pirate learn the importance of expressing oneself—and, perhaps, the superiority of a pig to a parrot.

Running time: Seventy minutes at the Acorn. Reviewed by Dr. Gregory A. Wilson on August 3rd performance

Peace, Love, And Cupcakes: The Musical. I started reviewing shows for CurtainUp well before my now nine year old daughter was born, and as with many other things my experience of reviewing shows has changed as she has grown. In particular, I'm a bit more suspicious of the easy childhood answer, the moral of the story tied up in a neat little bow just in time for the final curtain — things which make us feel good but so seldom encapsulate the full experience of growing up. Peace, Love, and Cupcakes: The Musical, based on the book from the popular series The Cupcake Club by mother/daughter team Sheryl and Carrie Berk (daughter Berk also co-wrote and stars in the musical), doesn't avoid this problem entirely. But its virtues generally override its vices, with a fun score, generally solid performances from its young and enthusiastic cast (particularly Madison Mullahey as the main character Kylie and Alexa Reeves as mean girl and main rival Meredith), and engaging story about a picked-on junior high school girl who creates a cupcake club, learning about herself, her friends, and her enemies in the process.

Unfortunately, the opening act isn't just twice as long as the closing one (why bother having an intermission with a second movement barely reaching twenty minutes?), it's considerably better. The second act is extremely rushed, and the incredibly easy conversion/confession towards the end plays into all of my concerns about the simple childhood solution, which as presented here is heavy-handed and unrealistic. That said, the show's heart is in the right place, generally well-performed, and has moments of genuine warmth— and my daughter's enjoyment is a significant positive in its favor. So long as you're not looking for too much nutritional value, children and adults will get some sweetness from this show.

Running time: One hour, twenty-five minutes with a ten minute intermission. At the Acorn. Reviewed by Dr. Gregory A. Wilson on July 30th performance

Generation Me. Teen suicide is a dark subject for a musical. But Julie Soto (book and lyrics) and Will Finian (Music) dive fearlessly into the depths of this sensitive subject in Generation Me

The story centers on a popular 15 year-old sophomore named Milo Reynolds (the amazing Milo Manheim) who takes his own life on a Monday morning. Told in flashbacks, the story zigs and zags through the final days of Milo's life. In 21 vivid scenes, the mystery of Milo's suicide, if not becoming wholly transparent, can be studied from varying perspectives and in contrasting lights. Who was Milo? According to his 18 year-old sister Zoe (Brett Hargrave) and his friends, he was handsome, funny, popular, loving, unpredictable, jealous, a good friend--and troubled.

Obviously, Soto has a gift for characterization. We meet 14 teens who could be plucked right out of your local high school. They gossip, act catty, bully, lie, cheat on their boyfriends (or girlfriends), worry about failing tests, brag about getting into the right college, and so on. But Soto hasn't written a sitcom for us to watch as we munch our popcorn. In Generation Me, she tackles the weighty issues of rape, child abuse, and suicide. While she's never preachy and doesn't try to tack on any moral at the finale, it's clear that she has written a cautionary tale that can speak to anybody. For who doesn't know somebody who has lost a son, daughter, or friend to suicide?

If the story is compelling, the songs propel the action forward. Soto and Finian have written 17 songs in all, which offer a kaleidoscopic view of teen life. The powerful opening number "Monday Morning/Revelation" sung by the company immediately anchors the musical, letting you know that the journey ahead is tinged with tragedy.

Not all the songs are solemn, though. Milo and Cody sing the risque duet "The Bra Song" that contains all the old cliches about dating girls and is sure to make you laugh (or blush). And for a real picture of romance, listen up to the whimsical "Guess Who." In this duet, Milo and Kaylee (Julia Nightingale) play a cat-and-mouse game with each other, and charmingly reveal their naivete.

While all the songs land on their musical feet, "Find My Way" is by far the most poignant number and is fittingly delivered at Milo's Vigil.

Scarlet Jacob's Spartan set allows the performers to move freely about the performing area and his screen projections of the teens text messaging following Milo's suicide is spot on. Nick Solyom's protean lighting shifts from flat white to more vibrant colorful shades in a nanosecond, enabling the audience to distinguish the realistic from the fantasy episodes in the show. Molly Seidel's costumes are a sampling of what you see teens wear in Times Square on any given day, plus some very flashy dresses for Ginny George's "Sweet Sixteen" Party and the school's Homecoming Dance.

Generation Me is not your typical teen musical. It seems like a close kissing cousin to Dear Evan Hansen, the Tony Award-winning musical that is currently playing at the Music Box. Could Generation Me be on its way to the Big Leagues? Who knows. But it surely has hit a home run at NYMF.

Running time: 2 hours with one intermission. At the Peter Jay Sharp Theater. Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan.

A Wall Apart. Directed and choreographed by Keith Andrews this is an ambitious musical that seems to have all the right ingredients for success: a talented 14-member cast with some Broadway names, crackling rock and roll music and lyrics by Lord Graham Russell, and an epic story that uses the Berlin Wall as a backdrop. In spite of these plusses, however, it's too tame. The characters lack psychological depth and the narrative is too tidy to deliver the dramatic goods.

The scenario centers on two lovers— an East Berlin border guard named Kurt and his half-American and half-German sweetheart named Esther. We follow their relationship for nearly three decades, witnessing them fall in love in a West Berlin nightclub, becoming separated when Kurt decides to become a border guard at the Wall, and yet keeping the flame of their love alive by never giving in to despair.

The main problem is that the book (by Sam Goldstein and Craig Clyde) glosses over the political situation in Germany from 1961 (the year the Berlin Wall began construction) to 1989 (the year it was dismantled). Although the piece gets The Wall's history down right, it never offers any fresh insight into the pathological culture that built it.

The show's 15 songs range from the straightforwardly political ("Our City") . . .to the blindly romantic ("I Want To Be In Love With You" . . . .to the plainly tragic ("A Wall Apart"). While many of the songs are lively, and a few heighten our consciousness of the Wall, most are predictable and become sanitized commentaries about a blemished chapter in history.

The show redeems itself in part with its strong acting. Jordan Bondurant (Tom Copley in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder) and Maddie Shea Baldwin (Tony-nomination for Bright Star) lead the cast as the two lovers, Kurt and Esther. They show remarkable range as their characters mature and age over the years. Darren Ritchie (Wonderland, Dracula) as Kurt's older brother Hans, gives a strong performance as a border guard who has learned to play the deadly political game that goes along with his job. Leslie Becker (Ragtime, Billy Elliot, Sweeney Todd) inhabits the matron Tante with a warm humanity that stands in sharp contrast to Germany's cold political world. The entire cast belt out their songs with clarity and conviction. In short, the talent outstrips the dramatic vehicle here.

The creatives behind A Wall Apart clearly have their heart in the right place. Perhaps with more workshopping, this show can fly. But, as it stands, the characters need to be more fleshed-out and the story needs to gain some of the steely reality of the barb-wired Wall that divided families and lovers for 28 years.

Running time: 1 hour; 40 minutes with one intermission. Reviewed at the Actorn by Deirdre Donovan. .

The Shakespearean Jazz Show is a rich gumbo of famous Shakespearean passages performed by the Nine Worthies (the name comes from Love's Labour's Lost) and set to New Orleans style jazz music. Whether Shakespeare is typically your bag or not, this concert has flair, brass, and fury —and is worth a listen.

If you are raising your eyebrows over the notion of Shakespeare's verse being coupled with jazz, worry not. This does the Bard no harm and it's actually refreshing to hear the Man of Avon with a genuine American accent.

The show has had a long and winding road to the Big Apple. Patrick Greeley, the composer and co-creator of The Shakespearean Jazz Show teamed up with Alex Ates in Boston back in 2011 to bring the project to life. They debuted the piece in embryonic form in the basement of an Emerson College dormitory where it immediately blazed to life. Encouraged by the favorable response, the two artists ended up shuttling between New Orleans (where Ates was born and raised) and Boston to stage the concert at different venues. Consider it the little engine that could.

Enough background. What makes this 75-minute riff on Shakespeare cut the mustard? Well, it has 12 samplings from the Bard's canon that will satisfy any Shakespearean fan. For starters, there's Hamlet's advice-to-the-players speech ("Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue . . ."). As performed by Sheldon Brown, and accompanied by the jazz combo, it lands as solid as the Lord's Prayer and creates an instant bond with the audience.

Another piece "Mariana," culled from Measure from Measure, ratchets up the emotional temperature in the room. Even if you don't know a jot about the character Mariana and her betrayal by the slick Angelo, this lovely ballad will grab at your heartstrings.

Curiously, the jazz, as it recontextualizes the Bard's language, gives the familiar speeches new kick and flavor. It's is like immersing Shakespeare in tabasco sauce. Yes, you recognize the language but it tastes much spicier and hotter than usual.

Although there's only a whisper of a storyline (mostly variations on unrequited love), the Nine Worthies (Sheldon Brown, Emily Skeggs, Daniel Irwin, Jenna Rogalski, Adrian Aiello, Adam Salameh, Patrick Greeley, Linton Smith II, and Patrick Duffy) generate enough electricity on stage to keep things jumpin'. The draw might be Shakespeare but the scat singing, the boogie-woogie dancing, and the trumpet with the bent bell that wah-wahs through a Shakespearean sonnet are nothing to sneeze at.

The Shakespearean Jazz Show, nestled in the Green Room 42 @ Yotel, is a mingled yarn of 16th century English literature and American jazz. Go with someone who likes their Shakespeare au courant.

Last performance, July 26th at 9pm. Running time: 75 minutes with no intermission. Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan

Numbers Nerds.
You need not know what a quadratic equation is to enjoy Numbers Nerds, the smart new offering at the New York Musical Festival that celebrates four high school femmes who prefer numbers to dating.

The premise might not be all that original (think The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) but it surely adds up to 90 minutes of theatrical fun that features a likable cast, a cohesive storyline (book by Laura Stratford), and songs (music by David Kornfeld and lyrics by Alex Higgin-Houser) that you can count on to make you smile.

Here's the story: The mostly female math team from Waukesha Charter High School are determined to win the 32nd Annual National Math Sum-It in Poughkeepsie, New York. But before they go to New York, they first must earn the money for their trip, deal with the drama that arises whenever teens congregate, and conquer that old bugaboo called stage fright.

What sets this show apart from other school–themed musicals of recent years is that it sets out to change the stereotype that girls can't do math. It succeeds, and while it does, also delivers a very satisfying piece of theater.

On the credit side, the characters are fully-realized, replete with personality quirks and endearing qualities. Barbie (Madison Kauffman) has a rich fantasy life and owns a Lisa Frank calculator. Melissa (Maisie Rose) suffers from stage fright but is determined to solve it like an algebraic equation. Amber (Tiffany Tatreau) is the snob who is a closeted math wizard. Mary Kate (Danielle Davila) has the charm and gets the guy (the brainy and off-beat Leroy). Ms. McGery, the drama teacher-turned-school janitor (Alas, budget cuts are brutal at this Midwest high school) has the faith to move mountains and becomes the math team's guardian angel.

The five "mathletes" are convincingly played by Danielle Davila (Mark Kate), Madison Kauffman (Barbie), Jake Morrissey (Leroy), Maisie Rose (Melissa), and Tiffany Tatreau (Amber). Sharon Sachs inhabits the ex-drama teacher Ms. McGery with an indomitable will and theatrical flair. Although it's unfair to single out any one actor from this ensemble piece, let's just say that Sachs, whose character has an encyclopedic knowledge of world drama, can steal the show at times with her bon mots that index the literary classics and popular musicals.

Beyond the good characterization and acting, the songs measure up. There's "Melissa's First Theorem," in which math maven Melissa charts the life and achievements of Einstein and then dreamily projects her own career beside it. The duet "Public Speaking 101," sung by Ms. McGery and Melissa, cleverly borrows from Shakespeare's Macbeth and perhaps the musical Annie. Before this song is over, in fact, Melissa will go from a weak-kneed public speaker to a latter-day Demosthenes ready to tackle the upcoming national competition. And what rhetorical secret does Ms. McGery's retrieve from her tool-kit and impart to Melissa here? "Simply screw your courage to the sticking place/ and plant a smile on that freckly face." there's not a clunker amongh 15 songs.

The story can be predictable at times and some tired cliches creep in every now and then ("The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.) But this is nit-picking in an otherwise refreshing new musical.

As directed and choreographed by Amber Mak Number Nerds never over-reaches itself. It's clearly a show with a social conscience and in its own good-hearted way it helps to erase the male gender bias in math that is deeply ingrained in our American culture.

Hopefully the show will have a life after its brief run at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater. Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission. Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan.

Matthew McConaughey vs the Devil
Librettist Emilie Landmann describes Matthew McConaughey vs the Devil as a "morality play starring Matthew McConaughey as our Everyman."

Matthew McConaughey as Everyman? Everyman for the One Percent perhaps.

This rowdy, intermittently engaging musical is played on a stage that's bare except for nine set pieces (designed by James Fenton) which represent the tacky back side of the H O L L Y W O O D sign on Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles. Authors Landmann, Jonathan Quesenberry (music), and Carrie Morgan (lyrics) purport to take us into the private, VIP precincts of the movie industry, with Texas native McConaughey at the center of the narrative (and another Texas native, Woody Harrelson, kind of on the side).

The Faustian action begins with McConaughey (Wayne Wilcox) in the doldrums about his career. He laments having to play yet another leading man with handsome face, washboard abs, and a generously proportioned generative organ. He fears he's going to end up burned out and washed up like his stoner friend Woody (Max Crumm).

What McConaughey wants is an Oscar. For that, he needs a substantive role that will go against the grain of his typecasting and convince the world he's a gifted dramatic actor. But his agent, Penny (Jennifer Blood), isn't getting him the auditions he wants.

Help arrives in the form of Mephistopheles, a demon who works on commission for Satan. Marlowe, Goethe, and Gounod, it seems, were all mistaken — Mephistopheles is a woman (Lesli Margherita) and a super-hottie. She assures Matthew she'll get him that Oscar if he signs a contract with some small print about the eventual disposition of his soul.

Musical comedy aficionados will recognize here the contours of Damn Yankees. Matthew McConaughey vs the Devil is as featherweight and ridiculous as that 1955 hit. And the new show features some accomplished songwriting (shown off to good effect by a spirited, five-member combo under music director Kristin Stowell). But Quesenberry and Morgan's score is a little repetitious and seems bland in comparison to Richard Adler and Jerry Ross's melodies and lyrics for Damn Yankees.

Matthew McConaughey features a superb cast, directed by Thomas Caruso. Principals Wilcox, Margherita, Blood, and Crumm, though youthful, are Broadway veterans; and Margherita won a 2009 Olivier Award for her supporting role in the West End musical Zorro. The six ensemble members — Cameisha Cotton, Koh Mochizuki, Frankie Shin, Riza Takahashi, Nicole Vande Zande, and Betty Weinberger — sing well and handle a host of supporting roles. They execute Billy Griffin's amusing choreography with skill and poise.

It will come as no surprise to anyone attending this musical confection that Matthew lands a meaty role and has a very good night at the 86th annual Academy Awards ceremony in 2014. In real life, McConaughey's Oscar-winning movie was Dallas Buyers Club; in the musical, Mephistopheles gets Matthew cast in something called Texas Buyers Club. (Is this title change supposed to insulate the authors and producers from litigation?)

Audiences are unlikely to foresee the wild and woolly ways that the musical's characters become entangled with each other; or how Matthew escapes the musical-comedy siren's clutches and avoids an eternity of fire and brimstone.

The answers to those questions are entertaining enough. But Matthew McConaughey vs the Devil is hardly the morality play that Landmann claims it to be in her program note. On the contrary, it's light to the point of disposability. Since there aren't any catchy numbers comparable to "Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)" and "You Gotta Have Heart" to hum on your way out, you're likely to leave the theater pondering why so much talent and professionalism have been expended on a project that already seems dated. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes,no intermission, at the Acorn. Reviewed by Charles Wright on July 14.

My Dear Watson, a Sherlock Holmes Musical.
Few, if any, fictional characters have had more lives beyond their original genre than Arthur Conan Doyle's brilliant Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. John Watson. The roles in radio, movie and television adaptations have been long running, career boosting gigs for many notable actors.

Unsurprisingly there have been several musicals. Baker Street A Musical Adventure of Sherlock Holmes, which combined several Doyle stories, even made it to Broadway in 1965 and stayed open for 311 performances. Sherlock Holmes - The Musical ran briefly in the West End. However, neither it into the canon of Sherlock Holmes stories that became super hits when adapted for another genre.

Given the enormous success of Benedict Cumberbach's modern day Sherlock Holmes, the time certainly seems ripe for someone to take another whack at making Holmes and Watson sing; and perhaps provide singing opportunties for Holmes's bête noire Professor Moriarty and Inspector Lestrade.

With My Dear Watson, triple-threat librettist, lyricist and composer Jami-Leigh Bartschi has done just that. Her book is quite ambitious in that it takes us through the entire Watson-Holmes relationship, from their meet-up to the developing somewhat homo-erotic friendship to its bitter ending courtesy of a final Holmes-Moriarty confrontation. Her epic story also manages to work in a murder.

I wish I could say that the score and lyrics lived up to Ms. Barrtschi's ambitious concept and that we could now add John Didonna and Kyle Stone to a long list of memorable Holmes and Watson portrayals. But John Didonna is not an especially charismatic or vocally strong Holmes. He deserves credit for gamely double tasking as the show's director. unfortunately his direction tends to be rather clunky (case in point: the show's murder victim ies down before our eyes and puts a bloody cloth over his face, turning murder most foul into a bit of comic shtick).

In fairness to all the performers, this is clearly a case of a company working with a limited budget and most importantly, that Ms. Bartschi has not given them an especially impressive score or lyrics. Even a larger band than pianist Patti Sayers and violinist Eri Park (both are excellent) would be unlikely to make this music that fits no particular musical theater style soar.

To be fair to Ms. Bartsch, the problem was and still is that these are not characters who sing easily. Thus even the best of the dozen tunes — "Man or Machine" and "Where Are You My Friend?"— aren't real take away numbers and that there's actually more speaking than singing here.

Though Holmes and Watson characters do most of the singing, Justin Mousseau's Inspector Lestrade does get a couple of duets wiith Watson and and Jason Blackwater's aptly evil Moriarty even has a solo ("The End Of You"). It's too bad that Bartschi didn't write at least one song for Liz Curtis's Mrs. Hudson.

The rest of the ensemble has little to do, though they are kept busy moving the few props around. Which brings me to the My Dear Watson's most sophisticated and appealing visual asset, Diana Mott's projections.

Mott fills the large back wall of the Peter Sharp Theater's stage with a wonderful assortment of images: from accouterments for the Baker Street apartment to the finale between Holmes and Moriarty. Her illustrations for "It's Like a Game" compensate for the one rather lame attempt to introduce a touch choreographic movement.

According to the author's note in the program, My Dear Watson has been a work in progress for nine years. For it to have a life beyond its current brief run in New York, it still needs a lot more work. — Running Time: 1 hour and 50 minutes, plus 1 intermission. Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at the July 14th matinee performance at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater.

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