Monday, June 20, 2016

HFF: BROADWAY NOIR has Potential but needs Development

Nathan Ondracek and Max Lichtig. All photos by Matt Kamimura

This is a show that hasn’t yet decided what it wants to be. While it’s clear the company has put a great deal of effort into it and presents a polished, well-rehearsed production featuring strong vocals, some of the actors are playing it as a spoof and others are playing it straight. 

According to the program notes, it is meant to be noir and the most interesting and successful scenes are those that honor director Julia Lisa’s vision. Max Lichtig (Carter) and Nathan Ondracek (Roger) nail the tone, as does Emily Decker (Zelda) as the sultry leading lady but most of the others are selling their performances and songs big and bouncy with a very contemporary delivery.

It isn’t completely their fault. Writer/composer Dan Sugi has given them conflicting styles of music and ultimately the two don’t work – at least not as currently written.

A sexy muted trumpet (Matt Von Roderick) underscores dialogue scenes and is used as change music which places the show beautifully in the jazzy noir period. Indeed, it is one of best features of the piece.

Jarring, however, is the number of times that flow is interrupted to jump into an artificially bright musical theatre song that immediately takes you out of the noir world and drops you in a generic alley somewhere way off Broadway. Many of the songs have prosody issues (which may be why the actors are forgetting their lyrics) and there are several that, while a fun solo feature for the actor, contribute nothing to the story and should be cut. The running time of the show is two hours but this should really be a one-act musical without an intermission since there isnt a major plot twist at the act break as it stands now.

Still, there is enough at the core of the show to continue its development. I’d love to see this musical live up to its potential. Before it can do that though, it needs an outside objective eye. More info:

Max Lichtig and Lauren Byrd

Martin Feldman, and Emily Decker

Lauren Byrd and Nathan Ondracek

Max Lichtig and Emily Decker

Nick Rubando and Max Lichtig

Lauren Byrd and Martin Feldman

Arielle Fodor, Nick Rubando, Adam Lau, Emily Decker
and Samantha Bussard

Nathan Ondracek

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