NYMF 2012: Review Roundup Week 1

The 2012 New York Musical Theater Festival, presented in the summer this year instead of in its usual fall outing, has just passed the halfway mark of its ninth annual edition. Of the ten “full” productions offered in the first week (with another ten slated for the second and final week), there have been a few bright spots, if also a few whose neon hasn’t buzzed so loudly, notably Arnie the Doughnut (with book by Frances Limoncelli and score by George Howe), which hasn’t generated much if any notice in the social media. Of course, the shows aren’t reviewed traditionally in the mainstream press, since they are technically still in development (even if some have received full regional productions), but below are selections of what some theater bloggers (including several posting for the New York Times) have been saying.

Baby Case: Michael Ogborn (book, lyrics, music)

This production has rousing songs, big voices, stylish staging and choreography, first-rate lighting and handsome period costumes. … The show’s only real problem is a certain amorphousness. It’s not clear whether this is a meant to be courtroom drama, media satire, soap opera or something else altogether. And it’s not immediately clear whether our sympathies should lie with Lindbergh … or with Bruno Hauptmann. (http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)

It could use a nip and a tuck but by and large this makes for an interesting musical. … The musical successfully captures America’s fascination with the case and the opportunistic tendency of man to rear its ugly head. … There are a couple of numbers that could have been cut from this musical. … But, there’s no need to throw this baby out with the bathwater, there is a lot to like here and we might just see more of Baby Case in an extended run somewhere. (http://theandygram.com)

Flambé Dreams: Matthew Hardy (book, lyrics), Randy Klein (music)

This improbable but highly diverting musical fable is quite entertaining, headed by an extraordinary cast of five. … Very clever lyrics by Matthew Hardy are backed up by some catchy melodies by Randy Klein. The score is light and witty. … With some cuts – there are a couple of repetitive speed bumps along the way and perhaps getting the show down to 90 minuets without an intermission Flambé Dreams could be a red-hot ticket. (http://oscaremoore.com)

Walking out of Flambé Dreams, I struggled to think of something positive to say. … Alas, most of the jokes fall flatter than a botched soufflé, with stale laugh lines about Prozac and The Sound of Music. Matthew Hardy, who wrote the book and lyrics, injects a few good rhymes every now and then (particularly in a song about an inflatable sex doll). The music, by Randy Klein, is generally unmemorable. (http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)

A lot of what made Flambé Dreams appealing was the extraordinary cast of Broadway pros. … The show provides strong and memorable characters for these able performers to embody, and gives them a number of genuine laughs and appealing songs. The show loses steam a bit at about 11 o’clock, as it were, but on the whole I’ll be interested in watching how this show progresses, and what its creators produce in the future. (http://www.everythingmusicals.com)

He’s Not Himself: Marc Silverberg (book, lyrics, music)

He’s Not Himself, after eleven drafts, is just not ready. … As silly plots go this one is a doozie. And that’s not a compliment. … Mr. Silverberg has lots of ideas – some of which are good – floating around without successfully coming together. Perhaps some additional drafts will be forthcoming. Nothing is as painful as seeing excellent actors performing mediocre material as if it were brilliant. He’s Not Himself needs lots of work. (http://oscaremoore.com)

Himself and Nora: Jonathan Brielle (book, lyrics, music)

It is intelligent, humorous, sexy and extremely moving, starring two stars in the making – Matt Bogart and Jessica Burrows. … Himself and Nora is a touching and thoughtful and theatrical telling of their eternal if rocky love for one another. There are so many beautiful songs and beautiful moments. … It is the glorious words and music of Mr. Brielle that make Himself and Nora so moving, exciting and truly an affair to remember. (http://oscaremoore.com)

Himself and Nora is a charming musical. … The show possesses a polish and finesse normally associated with a piece that has had more time to iron the kinks out. … It had me leaving the theater humming the songs. It remains to be seen if it can gain commercial traction. Under normal circumstances I might say it isn’t commercially viable, but I probably would have said that about Next to Normal. (http://theandygram.com)

How Deep Is the Ocean?: Pia Cincotti (book), Peter Cincotti (lyrics, music)

While the plot is implausible, that’s not an insurmountable problem in musical comedy. But the book is likewise uninterested in satire, allegory or anything other than using the story as a slow-moving vehicle to deliver the next eager-to-please moment. Similarly, the music and lyrics … can be catchy, but the variety of tone and subject is sometimes disappointing. … How Deep Is the Ocean? wraps up as expected, content to have delivered a few chuckles. (http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)

The score and the book seem to be from two very different shows. The book has a madcap tone, but the score is overly ballad-heavy and comes off far more earnest that the show seems to be aiming for. The situation has comic promise, but the book is only intermittently funny, and the songs rarely are. … The show has a sweet disposition, reasonably strong characterizations, and many memorable melodies. But it needs a sure-handed comic director. (http://www.everythingmusicals.com)

Re-Animator: Dennis Paoli, Stuart Gordon & William Norris (book), Mark Nutter (lyrics, music)

The special effects … are the highlight in this uneven, gore-filled, newish musical. … The Evil Dead and The Toxic Avenger, two similar musicals in the same genre, did it better their way. At ninety minutes without intermission Re-animator takes a time for it to really take off. … The music suits the production and is there to support the many wonderful aforementioned “special effects.” (http://oscaremoore.com)

This tuneful adaptation of a 1985 cult horror movie is big on laughs and even bigger on blood. … One particularly ghastly highlight involves a man carrying around his severed head. … Mark Nutter’s pert lyrics and spooky music blend seamlessly into a book … that borrows heavily from the original screenplay. … Hopefully it will rise again in New York sometime soon. (http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)

Rio: Mitch Magonet & Joey Miller (book, lyrics, music)

An ambitious, if still somewhat inchoate, musical. … The narrative is strong and compelling, although the book and lyrics vacillate between harsh truth and stilted cliché. … It doesn’t really know if it wants to be entertaining or hard-hitting. Perhaps most damning, the show currently features a rushed and pat resolution. … But there’s enough promise here to warrant another draft or two. (http://www.everythingmusicals.com)

Stuck: Riley Thomas (book, lyrics, music)

Stuck may already be pretty much all it can be – it may take some serious overhauling to get this train moving in a more original direction. … There are two big issues with this musical as it stands. One, nearly every opportunity to make this static/stagnant scenario a unique, interesting piece is started and abandoned. … Two, and most importantly, when all is said and done, very little of the show takes us anywhere we haven’t been in dozens of other musicals. (http://jkstheatrescene.blogspot.com)

For the most part, the music was generic, uninteresting, and unmemorable. For the first time in quite a while I found myself at a musical where the book was better than the music. The book contains moments where characters confront each other’s stereotypes upfront in frank conversations. … Playwright Thomas hasn’t written an ending with a clear sense of direction. The characters exit the subway car in pairs having awkward conversation while they do. (http://theandygram.com)

Trouble: Michael Alvarez (book), Ella Grace (lyrics, music)

The potential is there, but it is as messy as a teenager’s room, and cleaning it up just might be more trouble than it is worth. … I ended up caring about what happened to the kids involved, but it took more work on my part than the piece warranted. … Most of the songs are so lyrically generic that any character in the show could sing any of the songs at any time. And they all sound woefully similar. (http://jkstheatrescene.blogspot.com)

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