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A CurtainUp Review

" She converses on a level that transcends intelligence"— Baron (referring to Belinda)
Members of the cast
(Photo:Richard Termine)
A long, blonde ringlet that speaks (whose name is Beatrice. . .believe it!), a trio of grungy gnomes, a trio of flirtatious Sylphs, a quartet of ill-matched young lovers and others of questionable species take part in this funnily fantastical 18th century romp with music. As produced by the Prospect Theater Company, this 2004 Richard Rodgers Award-winner was originally presented in the 2007 New York Musical Theatre Festival where it was widely praised.

How wonderful that it has been unlocked for a lengthier (but still too short) run at the Duke Theater where it should win fans and the additional praise it deserves. Despite the constraints of a limited budget, Unlock'd is as much a visual treat as it is a rare and rewarding musical specifically created for family audiences. And the price is right.

I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting, but as soon as the musicians picked up their instruments (a harpsichord, guitar and strings among them) and began to play I knew that a musical theater treat was in store. The melodic music by Derek Gregor and the charming book and lyrics with its plethora of rhyming couplets by Sam Carner winningly envelops this rollicking adaptation of Alexander Pope's mock heroic narrative The Rape of the Lock (no credit is given in the program). It unfolds with a sprightly verve in the three-quarters-in-the-round setting (artfully designed by Wilson Chin & David L. Arsenault).

An attractive, talented cast has been whimsically costumed by designer Amy Clark to suggest both low and haute 18th century couture. They have been guided breezily through this musical frolic by director and choreographer Marlo Hunter. What a joy it is to see a family musical comedy with a silly story but yet with a very clear moral that is not an insult to intelligent adults or to children (preferably older than seven or eight).

What is the lovely yet ignored Clarissa (Jennifer Blood) to do as she finds herself wilting in the light of her self-absorbed step sister Belinda's (Jillian Gottlieb) radiance and coloratura soprano voice? It seems that every eligible man in Hampton Court has set his cap to win Belinda's hand in marriage. Of them all, the dashing Baron Windsorloch (Sidney James Harcourt) with his impressive singing and ardent wooing would seem to be the most likely. But the narcissistic and slightly ditsy Belinda is too entranced and enamored by her own beauty, and most particularly with her blonde tresses, to give him the time of day. And what can the forlorn and desperate Clarissa to do to get a good-looking guy to notice her?

And what are the romantic prospects of the Baron's book-worm brother Edwin (A.J. Shively)? He is a good-looking chap in his own right also with a fine voice who would rather spend his time in the library with a book in his arms — that is until he meets . . .well, let's not spoil the romantic convolutions that ensue with cutting edge hilarity. They, of course, involving the losing and the retrieving of a certain lock of blonde hair. Just as in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, mismatched and misaligned lovers must go through hoops before the happy ending.

For comedy, and there is plenty, there are the love-starved gnomes with cockney accents (Chris Gunn, Adam Daveline and Hansel Tan) who turn out to be individually and uniquely — one notable for his malaprop-ed speech — endearing, as do the beguiling Sylphs (Chandler Reeves, Maria Couch, Catherine LeFrere) with whom they conspire to make things turn out right. Adding to the merry mayhem are the Maidens and Gentlemen of the Court who cavort through the mayhem-filled action. They also participate comically in an imaginative game of "War" with giant playing cards, as well as in a hilarious formal high-tea scene that challenge the ones we know from Alice in Wonderland.

You couldn't ask any musical for sweeter, soaring arias, lilting, humor-filled musical numbers and dances or more giggle-inducing dialogue than are offered here. Unlock'd is wholesome family entertainment at its best. This should not imply that there is a lack of sophistication in either its score or text that makes no concession to the current vogue for rock.

If your ears prick up during Belinda's ravishingly sung, octave-spanning "The Hair Song," it may be because there is a twinkling wink at Cunegonde's aria "Glitter and Be Gay" in Candide. Unlock'd glitters, as does its gaiety, all on its own.

Sam Carner (book & lyrics) & Derek Gregor (music)
Directed & Choreographed by Marlo Hunter

Cast: Jennifer Blood (Clarissa), Sydney James Harcourt (Roderick Shearing, The Baron Windsorloch), A.J. Shively (Edwin), Chandler Reeves (Ariella; Maiden of the Court ), Maria Couch (Esther; Maiden of the Court), Catherine LeFrere (Avia; Maiden of the Court), Chris Gunn (Umbriel; Gentleman of the Court), Adam Daveline (Caleb; Gentleman of the Court), Hansel Tan (Barney; Gentleman of the Court), Jillian Gottlief (Belinda), Emily Rogers (Voice of Beatrice; The Maid), Lukas Poost (The Gardner)
Scenic Design: Wilson Chin & David L. Arsenault
Costume Design: Amy Clark
Lighting Design: Cory Pattak
Sound Design: Kurt Fischer
Fight Choreographer: Christian Kelly-Sordelet
Musical Director: Adam Wachter
Music Supervisor Brad Haak
Running Time: 2 hours including intermission
The Duke on 42nd Street, 229 West 42nd Street
Tickets: $50.00 - $65.00
Performances: Tuesdays and Wednesday at 7:30 pm; Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sundays at 2 pm.
From 06/16/13 Opened 06/27/13 Ends 07/13/13
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 06/22/13
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