Friday, July 6, 2012

NYMF plans for the overly ambitious

As I am fantastically (purposely) unemployed this summer, I can finally gorge myself on shows at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. The shows seem to range from fetal to adolescent and awful to awesome. It's a very exciting gamble.

At NYMF 2011, I endured Fucking Hipsters! because I love Heather Robb of the band The Spring Standards. She was charming and sounded lovely, as usual, but the show was a mess and not really much fun. At NYMF 2010, Shine! really impressed me. It was a well-developed, full-scale musical (with a huge cast for such a small space) based on Horatio Alger's Ragged Dick stories and set in 1876. The staging was minimal and resourceful, reminding me a bit of Peter and the Starcatcher in that way. And Andy Mientus was really good.

So for NYMF 2012, I am cramming in as many shows as I can while I'm in town. Unfortunately, the scheduling means I'll miss one of the productions I was most looking forward to, Re-Animator The Musical (there's some punctuation missing in that title, no?).

Other shows that look promising but don't fit my calendar: Rio (set in a Brazilian favela), Stuck (strangers on public transportation), and Sidekicks! (about superheroes' lesser halves, starring Alex Brightman, recently of Nobody Loves You at San Diego's Old Globe, which it crushed me to miss).

In happier news, I have tickets to all the shows below. Please cross your fingers for me that the timing works out so that I can get to them all on time (and that I can crash the opening night party and Part of It All a bit late).

In chronological order:

* Himself and Nora (about James Joyce and Nora Barnacle)
* Happy Endings (a New Yorker inherits an independent bookstore in a small New England town)
* A Letter to Harvey Milk (as stated on tin?)
* Shelter (about a counselor at a Philadelphia women's shelter)
* Part of It All (work from new composers, lyricists, and performers)
* Zelda (about F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald)
* Prisoner Dancer (Filipino maximum-security prisoners in a dance-based rehabilitation program)
* ZAPATA! (Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata steps out of the past to show a member of Occupy Wall Street how to fight for the 99%)
* Le Cabaret Grimm (punk cabaret)
* Stand Tall (a David and Goliath story ... with a Guitar Hero battle--and with the not-particularly-tall Gerard Canonico, of Spring Awakening and American Idiot, as Goliath)
* Swing State (click the link to read the description--I'm worried about the rampant stereotyping that will probably be included)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dogboy and Justine workshop production

I was a Kickstarter supporter for this show, and then my friend Hilary was cast as Justine. Add grains of salt as needed to suit your own tastes.

Right, so ... this is a musical about dominatrixes (dominatrices?) and their clients. It centers on down-on-her-luck Justine, who resorts to sex-related work when she fails to find another job, and Danny, one of her clients who happens to consider himself to be a friendly and loyal dog. The show includes a duel with dildos (or dildoes, if you prefer). It also has tons of musical-theater in-jokes. It's as though they intended to write it just for me.

The concept is ace and the songs are interesting and hella listenable. The production is very funny but also depicts a diverse, often-misunderstood--or even completely unknown--community. (Ugh, don't get me started on the travesty that is Fifty Shades of Porn for Misinformed, Twilight-Obsessed Middle-Aged Women Grey). Underneath the titillation and humor is an interesting examination of loneliness and unexpected opportunities for connection along with commentary on the crappy economy and accidental discoveries of one's own talents. In well-orchestrated song.

This was a short-run, bare-bones developmental production in the worse-for-wear American Theater of Actors. I hear Racheline Maltese (book) and Erica Kudisch (music and lyrics) will be retooling it before an expanded production, which I look forward to seeing.

This show gets so many things right (especially the musical-theater references) and shows tons of promise. Below are my notes on what I hope will be improved before Dogboy and Justine's next production.

* The show is a bit short, and the relationship between the titular Dogboy and Justine needs fleshing out. It jumps to their closeness at the end without earning it. As I mentioned to Hilary after the show, one way to address this without taking much stage time would be to have them speak to each other on the phone inaudibly during scene changes, to highlight the frequency and duration of their interactions. The audience doesn't need to be privy to the entirety of their growing connection, but they do have to believe it happened.

* Considering that he is supposedly the main character--and arguably the most interesting one--Danny (Dogboy) is given suprisingly little stage time. Also, as Jonathan Kline is a freaking amazing singer giving a fantastically nuanced performance, this is a musical-theater crime.

* Dogboy's mother and her relationship with him is underdeveloped. She needs to be more than a plot device if the ending is going to achieve an emotional impact.

* The show is much more negative about the clientele than I expected, and this disappointed me. I'm fine with the doms looking down on their clients and being in it just for the money, but that should be tempered by sympathetic portrayals of at least some clients beyond Dogboy.

* There are some cheap laughs. This is true of most musical comedies, but it disappoints me here even more because there's enough situational comedy that the jokes could be much more complex and unexpected.

As I said, I like the production. It shows a great deal of promise. Even though it's uneven and perhaps isn't as good yet, I enjoyed it more than I did the Broadway drag-queen musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.