Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Review: MIRAVEL Needs More Jazz, Less Talk

Jake Broder, Devereau Chumrau and Will Bradley.

It’s a story that takes too long to tell but the jazz sizzles and Miravel definitely has potential. Billed as a jazz musical by Jake Broder, co-author of the hit musical Louis and Keely, Live at the Sahara, it really falls under the ‘play with songs’ category, currently more talk than music. Broder’s compositions are expertly written, easily capturing the improvisational style of Monk and the sophistication of Ellington. They are, at the moment, one of the few places where passion authentically ignites in this spin on the Cyrano tale. 

That’s a surprise too, considering that both Broder (Alphonso Bloch) and his fellow actors – Will Bradley (Henry Brooks) and Devereau Chumrau (Miravel) – are all talented individuals. But the stakes feel weak and Chumrau, though beautiful, fails to ignite sparks with either of her co-stars.

Looking at her fellow actors would help but director Shaunessy Quinn instead has Chumrau play out to the audience or across the room rather than engage with her leading men and Broder naturally avoids eye contact because his character has so little self-confidence. That leaves Bradley fighting to connect. Even if the choice is intentional, it doesn’t make for interesting theatre. Without Bradley’s energy to stir the pot, the pacing in the dialogue scenes lags and we lose any momentum gained by the music. 

The story is told in hindsight, introduced by Bloch in his mature years, and consists of a series of scenes from the trio’s past – their accidental meeting in a practice room, musical sets in the jazz club where Bloch played piano and Henry sang, and others that reveal a moody jazz singer, introverted composer, and the woman who will unknowingly come between them.


Bradley’s unraveling is a detailed and, at times, explosive portrait of a man searching to be loved for who he is or not at all but so damaged he doesn’t trust it is possible. Bloch knows that Miravel loves his music and offers to write songs that Henry can sing for her and claim as his own to win her love but the consequences of that act will eventually hurt them all.

Compelling in theory, two hours is too long to tell this story. There isnt enough jazz to overcome the drag in the non-musical scenes with its repetitive dialogue and resolution we know is coming. Its a lot like what we want on the radio - more music, less talk. Unless the talk is compelling. Then were willing to listen.

A sparse but elegant set design by Alex M. Calle’s Entertainment Design Corporation and jewel-toned lighting by R. Christopher Stokes add depth to the intimate space, which boasts a baby grand piano and an excellent jazz combo on stage (Kenny Elliott on drums, Colin Kupka on sax, and Michael Alvidrez on bass).

Will Bradley and Jake Broder

Jake Broder and Will Bradley

Jake Broder and Will Bradley

Jake Broder and Devereau Chumrau

Will Bradley and Jake Broder

Devereau Chumrau and Jake Broder

MIRAVEL
November 6 – December 19, 2015
Sacred Fools Theatre Company
Friday and Saturday nights at 8pm
Tickets: (310) 281-8337 or www.sacredfools.org

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