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A CurtainUp Review
The Streets of New York
by Brad Bradley

Joshua Park &DanielleFerland (Photo: Carol Rosegg)
What a joyous production the Irish Rep have delivered in The Streets of New York for a challenging holiday season. Dion Boucicault's chestnut of a melodrama, set mostly in the frightfully hard times of The Panic of 1857, has every cliché character of the form, from the nasty and greedy villain to the pure but apparently doomed heroine to the valiant rescuer who saves her from a miserable fate. Charlotte Moore, the IRT's erstwhile artistic director and frequent stage director, here has taken on the additional task (hitherto not seen on her resume) of songwriter, and must be commended at the start for creating a wondrous musical production that constantly amuses, entertains, and even thrills. And, yes, it really sings, with music that enhances the characters and furthers the story, all the while spinning a crackling good time out of the largely miserable city life of fifteen decades ago.

Beginning with a self-service onstage thunderclap over a vamping piano, the entire company of The Streets of New York then presents a populist title song evocative of Blitzstein's The Cradle with Rock. And while the script early on suggests some of the bitterness of Brecht and Weill' s The Threepenny Opera, it quickly hits a winking stride with a glittering pageant of preposterousness in opposition to proud persistence. A perfect cast is wrapped in wonderful antebellum attire by Linda Fisher and the stage likewise with fabulously efficient and suggestive sets by Hugh Landwehr. The IRT even has acquired its own turntable to permit even more inventiveness and variety on its friendly jewel-box stage.

Boucicault''s intricate yet here very accessible plot concerns grave misfortunes involving the family of a wealthy sailor, Captain Fairweather, who deposits his entire fortune in a bank. Learning that the bank is not the secure institution he had imagined, he immediately attempts to withdraw his funds. But the banker, Gideon Bloodgood, resists the refund, and the captain dies of heart failure. An employee, Badger, is witness to the events, and his own interests stir the plot's churning mix. Also involved are romantic links between Mark Livingstone, a once-promising but ruined son of a fashionable family, with two women: Lucy, the captain's daughter, and (in her own manipulating mind) the banker's demanding daughter Alida. For added flavor and intrigue are Alida's illicit affair with an Italian Duke and the humble Puffy family's devotion to the forever faithful Fairweathers.

As theatrical housekeeper, adapter/director Moore not only keeps the weighty plot briskly moving without frustrating the audience, but also fosters caring for the good characters and enjoyment of even the bad ones. Some of the production's many comic highlights include uproarious songs, "Oh, How I love Being Rich" for Alida (acted and sung to perfection by Kristin Maloney), and the eponymous "Villains" for Bloodgood and Badger (splendidly portrayed by Ray DeMattis and Ciaran O'Reilly). Alida even has a second act musical flourish, pouting and shrieking the "Bad Boy Tango" with her Mediterranean duke.

While each of three villains has what might be called scene-stealing moments, let me hasten to note that the entire cast is top-notch, and that among them are the wonderful Joshua Park and Donna Kane as the honorable offspring of the good captain, and Peter Cormican, Terry Donnelly and Danielle Ferland as a Dickensian dearheart trio, the plucky Puffy family, almost too good to be believed, yet too charming to not adore. Dixie Puffy and Paul Fairweather, innocents destined to be paired, perform "She Doesn't Know I'm Alive", one of the most amusing love duets I've seen or heard in years. In other finely-drawn portraits are Michael Halling as the dashing Livingstone, and a versatile Christopher Lynn in the brief dual roles of Captain Fairweather and the Duke of Calcavella.

The script is suitably adorned with asides, irony, tongue-in-cheek satire and even pointed understatement. A simple line, "You will find her cheek paler than it used to be", is uproarious in its context, as are so many magical moments, including stylized chases and faints, a vivid tenement fire supported by musician Mark Hartman's adrenaline-charged arrangement (it would fit a silent movie climax sublimely), and a rousing upbeat finale. The artful welding of style and entertainment warrant many weeks, no, months of deserved bows for Ms. Moore and her tremendous troupe.

Written by Dion Boucicault
Adaptation, songs and direction by Charlotte Moore Directed by

Cast: Peter Cormican, Ray DeMattis, Terry Donnelly, Danielle Ferland, Margaret Hall, Michael Halling, Mark Hartman, Donna Kane, John Keating, Christopher Lynn, Kristin Maloney, Ciaran O' Reilly and Joshua Park
Set Design: Hugh Landwehr
Costume Design: Linda Fisher
Lighting Design: Clifton Taylor
Sound Design: Murmod, Inc.
Running Time: 2 hours, 25 minutes including intermission
Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 W. 22nd St. (6th/7th)727-2737
11/18/01-12/30/01; opening 11/18//01
Tues - Sat at 8pm, Sat and Sun at 3pm --$35-$40.

Reviewed by Brad Bradley based on November 17th evening press preview
extended twice-- moving the run into the new year for a 1/20/02 closing
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