Monday, March 29, 2010

Musical Theater With A Twist

Here's a fun game to play with your musical theater nerd friends: Imagine your favorite shows set in different time periods or locations. For example, what if Fiddler on the Roof took place in a Cuban cigar lounge as opposed to a shtetl in Russia? This is the premise behind What If?, part of the Mind The Art Anthology at La MaMa.

What If?, which will play one more performance on April 2 at 10 p.m., is conceived and musically directed by Christian De Gre. The show is presented as a concert with De Gre explaining the concept before each song, performed by an alternating cast of 14, backed by an 8-piece band. I'd have loved to see some of these ideas fleshed out in longer scenes, but in its current state, it is a highly entertaining evening. Some of the numbers were set to a different genre of music, such as a heavy metal "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd." Some featured a new staging concept, such as Jason Robert Brown's "Stars and the Moon" sung by three couples. Others were mash-ups, the best of these being a hip-hop "Modern Major General" backed by snippets from songs about men being men ("C'est Moi," etc.). The highlight of the evening was the grand finale--"In The Heights" sung in the style of Boublil and Schonberg, who wrote Les Miserables and Miss Saigon. De Gre explained that they were going to take everything that made In The Heights revolutionary and take it away. On the one hand, its amusing to hear these songs in unexpected ways, but the larger implications give you something to think about after the show.

Update: Check out Kat's blog for an in-depth analysis of one of the songs.

Note: I was given complimentary tickets to see the show in exchange for writing a review.

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