Wedding of Storytelling Wit, Perfect Bridegroom
Make Sure We Aren’t Robbed with This Revival
By Lauren Yarger
Some things are worth waiting for.
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.
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
“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
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,
Sound Design by Darron L West and Charles Coes, Orchestrations by Justine Levine and Martin Lowe, Fight Direction by Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum
-- God's name taken in Vain