Monday, March 28, 2016

Off-Broadway Theater Review: The Robber Bridegroom TOP PICK


Wedding of Storytelling Wit, Perfect Bridegroom

Make Sure We Aren’t Robbed with This Revival
By Lauren Yarger
Some things are worth waiting for.

The first-ever New York revival of the 1970s Tony-Award winning The Robber Bridegroom offers up a toe-tappin’, square dance of a production Off-Broadway directed by talented Alex Timbers (Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson) and starring a perfectly cast Steven Pasquale as the two-faced bandit Jamie Lockhart.

Featuring bluegrass music by Robert Walman and book (based on a short story by Eudora Welty) and lyrics by Pulitzer-Prize winner Alfred Uhry (Drving Miss Daisy), the show transports the audience into myth and legend on the Missisippi Natchez Trace where young girls dream of love amidst the boredom of long, hot days and where cut-throat robbers lurk at night.

Designer Donyale Werle creates the fairytale setting in a style reminiscent of Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, on which she also teamed with Timbers. A deer head, bits and random props that look like they came from a yard sale decorate the ceiling and rustic wooden cabin-like set with lighting by Jeff Croiter and Jake DeGroot to help create atmosphere.

That atmosphere ranges from silly slapstick to sinister -- which always lies just beneath the fairytale.
Despite warnings from a Raven (Nadia Quinn ) to turn back, Wealthy planter Clement Musgrove (a jovial Lance Roberts) journeys into the Natchex Trace and is waylaid by the Harp gang -- which is really only Little Harp (Andrew Durand) since he murdered his brother Big Harp (Evan Harrington) by chopping off his head, which he now carries around in trunk (and yes, he can talk and sing just fine). Harp’s deadly intentions are thwarted however, by Jamie Lockhart.

Musgrove is so grateful, that he invites Lockhart home to meet his legendarily ugly wife, Salome (Leslie Kritzer) and his beautiful daughter, Rosamund (Ahna O’Reilly). What he doesn’t realize is that mild-manner, who hides his face with berry juice to become The Bandit of the Wood, is still out to rob him, but this robber steals with style. He lets Musgrove go because he isn’t just interested in his purse like the Harps were. Jaime wants to check out what other riches he can steal from the man’s home including, maybe the man’s daughter as a wife so he can lay claim to everything there.

Before he can put his plan in motion, however, Jaime bumps into Rosamund in the woods and the two share an instant physical attachment, though Jamie is unaware of her identity and she hides it from him later when he visits the Musgrove clan because she has fallen for the mysterious bandit she met in the woods….

Meanwhile, bandits can be found at home as well as in the woods. Salome hires Goat (Greg Hildreth), who isn’t exactly known for his sharp wits, to do away with Rosamund, who is a constant reminder to Musgrove of his first, more beautiful wife.  Meanwhile, Little Harp decides he might like to have Rosamund for himself, but Goat manages to swap her for his sister, Aire (Devere Rogers) and it’s Jamie to the rescue once again.

If that all sounds a little odd and not quite the stuff of a happy fairytale, you heard right. It’s silly and fun, but under toned by a sinister touch which never lets us push thoughts about incest, “Deliverance” and humanity’s capacity to justify stupidity far from our minds. Uhry’s lyrics are witty and probing. 

Here’s proof:
The Harps sing amusingly (if not convincingly, as it never really looks like Big Harp’s head is not attached to his body)
“Two heads are better than one brother
When evrything’s said and done.
If there’s a problem to master
Two minds can master it faster.”

Musgrove and Salome sing
“Marriage is riches
It’s batches of riches
It’s patches on britches so lovingly sewn
It’s settin’ on porches
And bitin’ on peaches
And watchin’ the moon rise
Together alone”

Witty and profound, all in 95 humor-filled minutes.

Emily Rebholz designs the whimsical costumes ranging from a bird to the dashing Robber (with Wig and Makeup Design by Leah Loukas). Connor Gallagher provides choreography, which is simple and reminiscent of an informal square dance in a barn. Timbers blends the band (under the direction of Justin Levine) with the action on stage.

Pasquale is a perfect combination of handsome, sexy and silver voice to nail the role of the two-faced robber. And these weren’t easy highway boots to fill: Barry Bostwick took home the 1976 Tony for the role and actors also portraying Jamie include Kevin Kline and Raul Julia. I loved the show with Bostwick and have been singing with him on the soundtrack for almost 40 years, so imagine my delight when Pasquale stepped right into the role and didn't disappoint.

O’Reilly sings her part well (it has a pretty crazy soprano range) but lacks passion. The ensemble seems to have fun (many of them playing multiple parts) and Kritzer enjoys entertaining as the repulsive Salome.

Steal a performance of The Robber Bridegroom before this limited engagement, presented by Roundabout Theatre Company, plays its last May 29 at the  Laura Pels Theatre, 111 West 46th St., NYC in the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. Performances are Tuesday-Saturday at 7:30 pm; Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday at 2 pm.  Tickets are $99: (212) 719-1300; roundabouttheatre.org,

Additional Information:
Sound Design by Darron L West and Charles Coes, Orchestrations by Justine Levine and Martin Lowe, Fight Direction by Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS
-- God's name taken in Vain
-- Language


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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

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All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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