CLOAK AND DAGGER - Premiere Musical Comedy at Signature Theatre
One does have to credit Signature Theatre Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer for giving new musicals a place to thrive. Schaeffer helms CLOAK & Dagger, a new musical by the talented actor Ed Dixon who is responsible for the book, the music, the lyrics and stars in this production which ends the Signature's 24th season. I had great expectations of the show especially looking at the cast which includes the fabulous Erin Driscoll (as femme fatale Helena Troy, yes, Helana Troy!), the always terrific Christopher Bloch, Doug Carpenter (as gumshoe Nick) and new to Signature, and Dixon (who besides a long list of Broadway credits was spectacular in Signature's 2011SUNSET BOULEVARD for which he won a Helen Hayes Award).
When the show opens, I was immediately reminded of the great film noir Broadway hit musical CITY OF ANGELS which dealt with a detective in LA. But, CLOACK & DAGGER is no CITY OF ANGELS but few musicals are. Aftet the myriad of costume changes for Block and Dixon (about 20), it was clearly an attempt to replicate THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP where the science of quick changes is clearly the hit of the show. There is even a reprise of the quick changes in the curtain call.
The 90 minute musical seemed to last a LONG time. The story concerns detective Nick Cutter who is so down in his luck that his furniture is removed for non-payment and likewise his telephone, and electricity are abruptly stopped. And then SHE walks in, Ms. Troy in a bright red dress who wants Cutter to find her lost statue the Golden Venus. For some reason, there are people killing to get their hands on the statue. Well, that's the plot.
Both Bloch and Dixon cross dress through-out the evening. The book is the problem, not the actors who all demonstrate their acumen to perform many different characters. In many ways, it is like a borscht belt musical and one waits after a line is read for the drum and cymbals to play like after you hear a Rodney Dangerfield joke. (Take my wife...please!)
About the music. While Conductor Jenny Cartney and her three musicians do an admirable job (Ben Bokor on Reed 1, Scott VanDomelen on Reed 2 and Mark Carson on drums), there are seven reprises of songs, that says a lot.
But one fact about CLOAK & DAGGER is remarkable and that is it is the first show for 22 year-old Jordon Ross Weinhold as an orchestrator. How remarkable for this young man who just happened to be a face-book friend of Dixon and got the job two days after he offered his servcies if Dixon ever needed an orchestrator.One has to give Dixon a lot of credit to put his musical in the hands of a novice orchestrator. Probably few composers would have done this. Read the interesting Washington Post article about Weinhold by Rebecca Ritzel (June 10, 2014).
There is also a nice article about Dixon in the June 22, 2014 Washington Post by Nelson Pressley. It is full of interesting tidbits about the wonderful life Dixon has led in the theater, both its ups and its downs.
Signature Theatre has a terrific line-up of cabaret performers for their "Sizzlin' Summer Nights Series" which runs July 9 to 26 (tickets are $25 for each event) and their FREE Open House August 2 from noon to 10 p.m. with free performances all day long. The 25th Signature Season begins with Stephen Sondheim's SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE running August 5 to September 21.
There will also be a free event on September 15 entitled THE 25-YEAR JOURNEY, a conversation with the Washington Post's Senior Theater Critic Peter Marks and Eric Schaeffer. Reservations are required and tickets will be available beginning July 1, 2014. Call 703-820-9771.
CLOACK & DAGGER runs until July 6, 2014. For tickets, call 703-573-SEAT.