Monday, November 15, 2010

Adam Pascal at Queens Theatre In The Park

Not even the daunting trek to Queens or a subway ride from hell kept me away from meandlarry, Adam Pascal's concert tour with Larry Edoff. Delays on the 7 train led to the most crowded/uncomfortable train experience of my life, but once I got off the train at Mets/Willets Point, the free shuttle to the theater was incredibly easy to find. The driver was very kind and even called the theater to tell them that there were problems with the subway and to hold the concert.

As you can tell by the photo (credit: Dominick Totino), Queens Theatre in the Park is a lovely space. Events are held all year round and if there is an act performing that you want to check out and you don't live in Queens, I highly recommend making the trip (just check the subway advisories beforehand). But on to the concert.

It was a mostly older crowd, with some teens/tweens mixed in. Pascal took the stage alone for the first song and said, "Here is a song from the worst show I've ever seen," and proceeded to sing an innovative version of "Memory" (think Andrew Lloyd Webber with an indie rock twist). I appreciated his take on the song, but clearly he never saw Starlight Express, which is a far worse show than Cats. There were plenty of empty seats in the small space and this did not go unnoticed by Pascal who said, "This is what we call in the industry sparsely attended." He did thank the audience multiple times for being there and he did put his all into the show, but there were some uncomfortable moments like this one, where it wasn't clear if he was being self-deprecating or bitter.

The set list was a mix of original songs (co-written by Edoff) and show tunes. A highlight was the haunting "I Don't Care Much" from Cabaret (Pascal played the final Emcee in the acclaimed production of the show at Studio 54), which then segued into Elton John's "Rocket Man" and back to "I Don't Care Much." It was a better mashup than anything they've done on Glee.

At one point, Pascal said that he gets asked a lot about what it's like to be a Broadway actor. He told a story about he was brought to perform an acoustic set of original material somewhere in Florida and someone in the audience yelled for him to sing something from RENT. When he apologized that he didn't have that prepared, the audience started walking out. "That's what it's like," he said. He then sang "What I Did For Love" from A Chorus Line, so I like to think that he was implying with the song choice that it's all worth it and that he is happy to be known for theater rather than rock (which is where his career began).

He only sang one song from RENT, his "one hit" as he called it, "One Song Glory." For this RENT fan who waited 14 years to hear him perform that song live, it made the subway trauma of an hour before worth it.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Reefer Madness is Smokin'

Pictured: Greg Horton and the cast of The Gallery Players’ production of Reefer Madness. Photo by Bella Muccari.
Though there is no actual pot being smoked onstage, you may leave Reefer Madness with a contact high. Hilariously staged by Dev Bondarin, extremely well acted, and at the bargain price of $18 a ticket, I defy anyone to leave The Gallery Players's production without smiling.

Reefer Madness, based on the 1938 propaganda film against marijuana, was turned into a musical by Kevin Murphy (book, lyrics) and Dan Studney (book, music) in 1998. The show originated in Los Angeles and ran off-Broadway in 2001.

The musical begins with the Lecturer (Greg Horton, with more than a passing resemblance to Jon Lovitz, but funnier and with a powerful voice) warning of reefer and leading the catchy opening number "Reefer Madness." He proceeds to tell the tale of Jimmy Harper (Jason Edward Cook), who just wants to learn to dance to impress his girlfriend Mary Lane (Rebecca Dealy), but gets sucked into the dangerous world of reefer.

The animated Cook is perfectly cast as the square-turned-reefer fiend and Dealy is just as suited to the role of his innocent lover. One of the highlights of the evening is their adorable duet "Romeo & Juliet," in which they speculate about the happy futures that await the characters in Shakespeare's play. The cast is supported by strong dance work from the hard-working ensemble.

With the legalization of marijuana in the news, this is a timely moment for a revival of Reefer Madness, but it's also escapist fun, and who doesn't need that?

Pictured (l to r): Jason Edward Cook, Michele Scully, and Zak Risinger in The Gallery Players’ production of Reefer Madness. Photo by Bella Muccari.