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A CurtainUp Review
This musical, under the direction of Jason Moore, with a book by John Logan (Red ) and a score by Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) does have a message, it just takes a while to complete all its cycles on the Second Stage Tony Kiser Theater.
To Simon's relief and joy, contact is made and Jim comes for dinner and tastes the quinoa, "It's like rice," he says immediately ingratiating himself that is until he suddenly and without warning has to leave. We are able to conclude that Jim has had no previous contact with quinoa in this world and may possibly have indigestion. In truth or in fiction, Jim is a visitor from another planet who has been given human form. His job on earth is to save the lives of as many people as he can. In between that awesome and presumably exhausting assignment, he has been employed as a bus driver — that is until just recently fired for too many unexplained absences.
Jim is insecure at best and made more so once his secret identity is discovered by Simon. A budding illustrator and creator of his own comic book hero, Simon is played by the talented and likable McArthur who is making his professional debut. His first song "The Adventures of the Amazing Sea Mariner" is sung atop a fire escape. It's a rouser and gets a boost from the cartoon projection designs by Tal Yarden.
Simon is thrilled to have found a real hero, particularly since the tragic death of his father two years before. An outsider at the new school he has been attending, Simon does have a crush on pretty and pert Vee (Salena Qureshi) whose interest in him is as fitful as ours in them.
Where this musical tries not to be childish is in making Charlotte a heroine in her own right and in her son's eyes. Baldwin (so great as Irene Molly in the most recent Hello Dolly) brings both dramatic and musical heft with her glorious singing of Charlotte's arias (notably "What's Happening to My Boy") that have to do with her attempt be the emotional and practical support that Simon needs. But her almost reckless attempts to seduce Jim are not quite credible.
Credibility is never the issue in this musical even if Pinkham (so disarming in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder ) makes a good case for his from-another-world character with "The Man in 4-B" — but really makes a case that he needs a better vehicle the next time he lands on earth.
The landlord, well played by Thom Sesma, has a nice moment when he offers Simon some sage advice on the metaphoric journeys of superheroes. Overall, this musical has quite a few nice moments but they are just not quite super enough to insure its success.
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Book By John Logan
Music & Lyrics By Tom Kitt
Musical Staging By Lorin Latarro
Directed By Jason Moore
Cast: Julia Abueva (Rachel), Kate Baldwin (Charlotte), Jake Levy (Dwayne), Kyle Mcarthur (Simon), Bryce Pinkham (Jim), Salena Qureshi (Vee), Thom Sesma (Vic), Nathaniel Stampley (understudy)
Scenic Design: Beowulf Boritt
Costume Design: Sarah Laux
Lighting Design: Jen Schriever
Sound Design: Brian Ronan
Projection Design: Tal Yarden
Illusion Design: Chris Fisher
Orchestrations: Michael Starobin & Tom Kitt
Music Director: Bryan Perri
Music Coordinator: Michael Aarons
Stage Manager: Diane DiVita
Running Time 2 hours and 10 minutes, 1 intermission
2nd Stage Tony Kiser Theater: 305 West 43rd Street
From 1/31/19; opening 2/28/19; closing 3/31/19
Reviewed by Simon Saltzman on Tuesday March 6, 2019
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