BWW Reviews: Bayou City Theatrics' BROOKLYN: THE MUSICAL is Soulful Entertainment
Whether you call it trash, rubbish, or junk BROOKLYN: THE MUSICAL has tons of it and in a great way. With book, music, and lyrics by Mark Schoenfeld, and Barri McPherson, this musical takes place as a story within a story on a street corner under the Brooklyn Bridge. The inspiration for the show comes from real life experience of Schoenfeld. Schoenfeld and McPherson had once been collaborators in a recording studio session. After parting ways, they would not meet again for some time. About 10 years later McPherson was on her way to an event in Brooklyn when she heard a familiar voice coming from a street performer. That voice turned out to be Schoenfeld, who she had worked with all those years ago. She invited him to live with her and her family. During that time, they wrote songs together based on Schoenfeld's experience performing on the streets of Brooklyn. Those songs turned into BROOKLYN: THE MUSICAL which ran on Broadway from late 2004 until mid 2005.
BROOKLYN centers on a group of homeless street performers known as "Cityweeds" that begin to spin a story for their street audience. Their story is referred to as just a "sidewalk fairytale". The fairytale happens to focus on a young Parisian girl named Brooklyn who, after her mother's death, journeys across the Atlantic to the city of her namesake in an effort to find the father she has never known. Her only other clue to him is a lullaby he created, which her mother passed on. Throughout her search, she encounters fame and fortune, a bitter rival, and her own identity.
A sensational cast, directed by Colton Berry, helps bring this fairy tale to life. Mallory Bechtel shines as Brooklyn.
and gracefully fills the role of the young girl looking to find herself. Although gentle, she commands the stage with a determined force that makes the audience cheer her on. It also helps that her voice is powerful and angelic throughout the show and especially during the song "Once Upon A Time".
A rival to Betchel's character is the reigning diva superstar Paradice played by Hannah Miller. Miller is a great opposite to Bechtel. Where Betchel fills the stage with innocence and sweetness, Miller fills it with spice and sassiness. She is the mean girl that everyone is supposed to hate but with a set of dynamic vocals that seem to shake the theatre, hating her character is easier said than done. Paradice orchestrates a singing battle with Brooklyn where the winner takes all of the fame and money while the loser becomes a nobody. The battle is one of the highlights of the show where both actresses put their powerful singing to good use.
Colton Berry also plays the charismatic and charming Streetsinger. He seems to not only to be the narrator of this "sidewalk fairytale" but also guiding figure to Brooklyn. This guiding figure reminded me of a fairy godfather type role. Perhaps it is his warm and comforting vocals that contribute to this.
Jake Frank plays Taylor, the young American soldier with a talent for music and a heart for the lovely Parisian girl Faith. He goes through several transitions from beginning to end and it's hard not to feel for his character.
Kelly Waguespack shows a delightful performance as Faith, the young Parisian dancer that fell in love with Taylor, but didn't necessarily have the strength to keep living without him.
The rest of the Cityweeds are played by Luke Hamilton, Madi Miletello, Gia Ochsenbein, Christian Quiroga, and Liz Tinder. Under the direction of Colton Berry, the entire cast is a spectacular ensemble blending seamlessly together to create a multitude of scenes and characters. From their tiny space of street corner they help place the audience in many settings such as Paris, Carnegie Hall, and Madison Square Garden.
Besides the talent, one of the biggest standouts of BROOKLYN is definitely the costume design by Berry. Being that the musical within a musical is performed on a street corner by the homeless, their resources happened to be everything out and about on the streets of Brooklyn. This is where the trash, rubbish, and junk holds importance. Those who are fans of recycling should take notes. Some of the costumes are quite fabulously constructed out of a host of refuse materials such as aluminum foil, plastic cups, newspapers, trash bags, and an array of other things. The costumes alone should be a reason to see this show.
Not to be forgotten is the highly effective set design also by Berry. The stage is transformed into a street corner with the performing space seemingly true to that size. The small space seemed simple, but once the show got moving, the transition and flow from scene to scene showed the layers of the space that were created to transport the street performers from street corner to other places.
Musically, BROOKLYN does a good job. The music is primarily focused on soul, pop, and rock. There are catchy tunes and lots of reprises which are okay because the show oozes great vocal talent all around. Not to mention that The BROOKLYN Band, under the direction of Jane Volke, does a good job at emphasizing but not overpowering the actors.
Bayou City Theatrics' production of BROOKLYN: THE MUSICAL is a soulful musical that is fun and entertaining. With its delectable cast and inspiring story, it is sure to delight its audiences.
See BROOKYLN: THE MUSICAL performed by Bayou City Theatrics at The Kaleidoscope Theatre from July 10-26 Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm. Go to http://www.bayoucitytheatrics.com for tickets and more information.
Photos courtesy of Bayou City Theatrics.