BWW Review: LOS OTROS at Everyman Theatre - New Musical by Michael John LaChiusa is Ripe for Our Time
One has to compliment Everyman Theatre Artistic Director Vince Lancisi for commissioning this new musical LOS OTROS ("The Others") by Tony Award nominees Michael John LaChiusa (music) and Ellen Fitzhugh (book and lyrics) which had its debut in 2012 at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.
It was Director Noah Himmelstein (recently named Everyman's Associate Artistic Director) who had the idea of having Everyman approach the authors about revisiting their musical. The rest as they say is "history". Everyman had a workshop in New York City last fall. And Lancisi has made this happen here in Baltimore.
It's been a while since Everyman has produced musicals. I recall with reverence Jacques Brel IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVNG IN PARIS and Jason Robert Brown's wonderful THE LAST FIVE YEARS, both done at the theater's North Charles Street location. Thus, LOS OTROS is their first musical at the theater's new home on Fayette Street. And hopefully, this will lead to more
In a way, LOS OTROS reminded me of THE LAST FIVE YEARS which was a two character musical about a married couple who only sing to each other once in the middle of the show but otherwise are separate and apart.
This is not your typical Broadway musical. It is almost entirely sung through. Hopefully, when you read this and notice that LaChiusa is a five-time Tony Award nominated composer, Lyricist, and Librettist, you will want to be one of the first to see this inspirational and beautiful musical.
I have been fortunate to see some of his work including MARIE CRISTINE (at Lincoln Center), THE HIGHEST YELLOW and GIANT (both at Signature) and THE WILD PARTY (locally). I enjoyed them all.
Everyman is very fortunate to have the incredibly talented Jon Kalbfleisch as Music Director (and on Keyboard). Kalbfleisch is the Resident Music Director at the Signature Theatre in Shirlington, VA where he has conducted over 50 productions. You can also see him occasionally on the piano with the Baltimore Symphony.
His five other superb musicians get great billing in the program (deservedly so) and they are all terrific: Ben Boker (Reeds), Chris Walker (Trumpet), Michael Decker (Guitar), Chris Chlumsky (Bass), and Dane Krich (Percussion).
Special kudos to Bruce Coughlin responsible for the complex and gorgeous orchestrations.
LOS OSTROS spans the time between 1938 and 1995 in California and Mexico and the music is appropriate for each span of time and location And it is fabulous. I so wanted to bring the CD of the score home with me. Hopefully one day it will be recorded.
The story is told in flashback and concerns a white woman and a Latino man in Southern California and how their lives will intertwine.
Playing "Lillian" is the amazing Judy McLane who is so believable from a young teenager all the way to a divorced mother with two teenage daughters. McLane has some incredible Broadway credits from KISS OF THE SPIDERWOMAN to ASPECTS OF LOVE to CHESS. I fondly recall her performing in MAMMA MIA! initially as "Tanya" (for nearly eight years) and then her taking on the leading role of "Donna". But I have never seen her take on a role like this! Her range is simply amazing from a young teenager delivering food to a family hidden in a cave on their way "north", to finding a housekeeper in Mexico to take home in her car trunk, to an experience in the "barrio", to her being alone and helping one with a small stroke. The range of her voice is outstanding. It's a remarkable performance.
Phillip Hernandez plays "Carlos" and what a background he brings. I've also been fortunate to see him on Broadway in both THE CAPEMAN, and KISS OF THE SPIDERWOMAN (where he created the role of "Esteban" and later played "Valentin" in London's West End and Broadway. He is also the only actor to have played both roles of "Jean Valjean" and "Inspector Javert on Broadway in LES MISERABLES.
He also has amazing acting chops playing a young Mexican immigrant who is not allowed to speak Spanish in school, picking plums in Santa Rosa, jumping for joy after the end of World War II so family members can return home, to his sexual experiences as a young gay Latino to a successful accountant. He has a beaming voice which can be so delicate at times. His Latin-jazz CD got great reviews from "Jazz Review". I may have to go to www.philiphernandez.net to get one. I was also impressed with his movement (Vincent E. Thomas) He is as fluid as a Paul Taylor dancer.
I only wish there was more between the two leads. Maybe in its next incarnation the composers will make that happen.
The creative team is top notch: Nancy Schertler (Lighting Design) and Ken Travis (Sound Designer) both have Broadway credits. Daniel Ettinger (Set Design) and David Burdick (Costume Design) to their typical yeoman's work.
What an appropriate subject for what is happening in today's society. This musical says it all.
LOS OTROS continues until April 23. Tickets are available at 410-752-2208. Visit www.everymantheatre.org for some interesting videos on the show. Do not miss it.
Next up at Everyman is one of the funniest plays I have ever seen, NOISES OFF by Michael Frayn and directed by Lancisi. It runs May 16 to June 18, 2017.
Put on your calendars the Everyman's Next Salon Series on June 5 TROUBLE IN MIND by Alice Childress. The reading begins with cocktails at 6 and the show at 7 p.m. Tickets are only $15. It is directed by Dawn Ursula (now starring in A RAISIN IN THE SUN at Arena Stage).