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A CurtainUp NJ Review
Unmasked: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber
Impressive interpretations are given to the often lofty, rhapsodic melodies from the composer best known for his scores for Phantom of the Opera , Cats , and Evita This concert also puts the spotlight on the composer himself as he talks informally to the audience by way of large screen that is lowered from above periodically between musical numbers. While it’s nice to see and hear this master melodist in a relaxed informal setting, the result is far from professional. What could have been charming and insightful has been hastily directed and sloppily edited.
Despite some vocally impressive solo and ensemble numbers, this show gives the impression of being rushed to the stage before it was ready. Despite this, ensemble numbers from Cats and Phantom are surprisingly effective even without the benefit of extravagant costuming or settings. The company is attired by costume designer Alexander Dodge in handsome enough variations of black and enhanced by the excellent lighting designed by Ed McCarthy. Dodge also designed the not especially imaginative but functional set that allows two large staircases to move fluidly back and forth in front of the raised bandstand.
Although one could quibble that Webber’s lush music is best served by a large orchestra, the electronically implemented sounds from the otherwise fine 10 member band under the musical direction of Michael Patrick Walker, serves the needs of this modestly conceived show.
Shout-outs to Mauricio Martinez for giving Jesus his due with an impassioned “Gethsemane” from Jesus Christ Superstar ; Mamie Paris for delivering two thrilling arias as Evita; Alyssa Giannetti for the gorgeously sung title song from Love Never Dies, the yet to be seen here sequel to Phantom ; and to Rema Webb who guaranteed us goose bumps singing “With One Look” and “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from Sunset Boulevard . It would be easy enough to keep singling out the many exceptional interpretations of songs from the almost three dozen given voice. But more importantly, and at its best, Unmasked has taken away the glitter for the sake of the musical gold that is the heart of Webber’s musicals. As devised and co-written by Richard Curtis, Unmasked seems at this juncture like something that could easily be scaled down even more to effectively play concert halls and universities without breaking anyone’s budget
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. Unmasked: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber Co-written and Devised by Richard Curtis Directed and Choreographed by Joann M. Hunter Cast: Nicholas Edwards, Alex Finke, Alyssa Giannetti, Kara Haller, Jeremy Landon Hays, Amy Justman, Andrew Kober, Angel Lozada, Mauricio Martinez, Bronson Norris Murphy, Mamie Parris, Dave Schoonover, Rema Webb.
Scenic & Costume Design: Alexander Dodge
Lighting Design: Ed McCarthy
Sound Design: Jon Weston
P.S.M.: Frank Lombardi
Music Supervision: David Andrew Wilson
Music Direction: Michael Patrick Walker
Running Time: 2 hours 30 minutes including intermission
Paper Mill Playhouse 22 Brookside Drive, Millburn, N.J. 973 - 376 - 4343
Performances: Wednesdays at 7:30 pm; Thursdays at 1:30 and 7:30; Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 1:30 and 8 pm; Sundays at 1:30 and 7 pm
From 01/30/20 Opened 02/09/20 Ends 03/01/20
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 02/12/20
NJ Theatre Alliance
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