BWW Reviews: 5th Ave's A ROOM WITH A VIEW Searches for Identity
The main characters in the new musical version of "A Room with a View" spend their time trying to figure out who they want to become. Unfortunately the show itself also has an identity crisis, as it could never figure out what kind of show it wanted to be. And that, combined with songs that rarely got off the ground and never moved the story along, left the show a muddled mess being sung by some powerhouse talents who deserve better.
Based on the novel by E.M. Forster (and of course the film by the same name) we venture into the Italian countryside with the searching Lucy (Laura Griffith) and her uptight chaperone cousin Charlotte (Patti Cohenour). Lucy is engaged to be married to the all too proper Cecil (Will Reynolds) but when she meets the dashing George (Louis Hobson) and his father (Allen Fitzpatrick) at the hotel, the two young wanderers fall for each other in the tamest torrid affair I've ever seen (but then it's British society in 1908 so even a kiss in the rain can be scandalous). Lucy rushes home to make arrangements for her wedding to Cecil but when one of the hotel guests, the novelist Mrs. Lavish (Suzy Hunt) publishes a romance novel that bears a striking resemblance to Lucy and George's forbidden romance, their secrets are exposed to the world.
The original source materials, both the book and the film, are lovely with rich complex characters and poetic language. But the musical by Marc Acito and Jeffrey Stock is so clunky and heavy handed that any elegance the story had is gone. It felt like they were reminiscing about their favorite moments of the film and made those the plot points of the show, especially the raucous nude swimming in the lake scene which, while fun, just seemed to be there to wake things up. The songs never quite move the plot along but instead feel the need to take one point of a scene and expand it into a list of things that reinforce that point. Plus there was that highly awkward moment where they tried to jam the title of the show into a song and make it meaningful.
The show never quite finds it's footing both in style and in storytelling. The characters keep espousing their staunch opinions but when it comes time to sing a big group number everyone joins in whether what they are singing relates to their viewpoints or not. And the tone of the piece kept shifting. One minute it's a pastoral romance and the next it's an Oscar Wilde comedy. The music goes from wanting to be an Italian operetta to a faux ragtime musical to a Sondheim piece and never quite succeeds at any of them. It was so muddled that by the end I wanted to change the title to "The Importance of Being A Little Night Monty in the Ragtime Piazza with a View" but that would have disservice to all those wonderful shows this one tried to mimic.
As I said the cast is superb but had little to work with. Griffith and Hobson have stunning voices but had too little story to explain why they were falling in love. Matt Owen as Lucy's free spirited brother and Richard Gray as the repressed Reverend were hilarious and helped make the lake scene as fun as it was. Cohenour, Fitzpatrick and Hunt do admirable jobs in their roles but are mostly given forced exposition. Reynolds is funny as the uptight fiancée but felt to be a part of a different show than the rest. And I must mention Jadd Davis and Jenny Shotwell who start off the piece with some stunning belting of the opening Italian love ballad and had the show been more about them it might have had a chance, as their characters were the most developed.
I know this is an out of town tryout for a new work and still in flux but considering Seattle is not the first tryout for it, the state it's in would indicate it's probably beyond repair. And with its myriad issues, my three letter rating system can only give this a NAH.