Labour's Lost: The Musical
Review from The
Off Off Broadway Review
Conceived and adapted by Kenneth Noel
Music and lyrics by Bob McDowell
Directed by John Basil and Kenneth Noel Mitchell
Review by David Mackler
The starting-off point of Shakespeare's Loves Labour's Lost is
impossible (men getting together with the express purpose of choosing learning
over love), and the track record of Shakespearean musicals is not auspicious.
But for the New York premiere of Kenneth Mitchell's adaptation, known as Loves
Labour's Lost: The Musical, the American Globe Theatre had the great good
fortune to be showcasing the music of Bob McDowell, and a cast of good men and
LLL: The Musical is good enough as Shakespeare, but it's terrific as a
musical. McDowell's score shows an understanding and appreciation of
Shakespeare, '30s musical comedy, and exploring character in songs that should
have a life outside the play they're in. The silly set-up is winningly
explicated in "From Today," where the King of Navarre (Graham
Stevens) assembles his cronies: Dumaine, a dancer from Hollywood (Geoffrey
Barnes); Longaville, an artist (Ross Stoner); and Berowne, a Scotsman
complete with kilt (Trent Dawson), and they agree to his proposition that
there be, as the sign on stage proclaims, No Women Allowed. Well, except for the
previously planned visit of the Princess of France and her court.
And while the men had a good sense of the fun that directors John Basil and
Kenneth Noel Mitchell encouraged (no lack of slapstick and double-takes),
the women gently, casually, and exquisitely took control of the men, the music,
and the play. The Princess (Kelley McKinnon), the aviatrix Rosaline (Alyson
Reim), the '30s Hollywood blonde Katherine (Carey Urban), and the
classy brunette Maria (Kimberly Kay) sing "A Cautionary Tale,"
admonishing each other to "never take a man at his word," and it's
clear the men are goners. Katherine, Maria, and Rosaline each have enchanting
(albeit short) songs that whetted the appetite for more music, and more of their
charm. And there's the rub -- this musical's music is so evocative and flat-out
good that it sometimes felt as though there's too much Loves Labour's Lost
and not enough The Musical.
So when Dawson sang "I'm in Love!" full of confusion and surprise,
or Reim beautifully performed "Don't Come Near My Heart," a song that
could become a cabaret standard, there was nothing Lost about it. The men
closed Act I with the declaration "C'est la Guerre" and the women
opened Act II with "How to Handle a Man," and characters and audience
were both well-served. And with the plot's pairing off of characters
established, the men's comic number "Russians Four" was beautifully
set off by the women's misleading the men to make fools of them. But gosh,
there's an awful lot of talk in between.
The setting has been changed to a Spanish villa in 1932 (set designed by James
A. Bazewicz), most likely to accommodate the Don Armado of Justin Ray
Thompson, in a gem of a comic performance. He was ably matched by Elizabeth
Keefe's Jacquenetta, whom McDowell endows with a fine musical number of her
own. Mark Hankla's lighting was almost cinematic, putting singers in
spotlights and coloring the action for comic effect, and Terry Leong's
costumes were lush and glamorous. There was a recent, less-than-successful film
version of LLL that used a '30s setting and known '30s songs, but
faltered by not going all the way with music or Shakespeare. Remember, it's Cole
Porter's Kiss Me, Kate, not Shakespeare's. Note to McDowell -- this is
your show, make it yours even more.
Also with Andrew Thacher, Karen Macleod, Basil Rodericks,
Rainard Rachele, Julia Cook, and J.B. McLendon.
Copyright 2003 David Mackler
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