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Review: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN Surprises Pleasantly at Don't Tell Mama

A blind item in a cabaret club proves to be a fun night out.

Review: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN Surprises Pleasantly at Don't Tell Mama

In life, being adventurous can lead to wonderful things, as many people already know. It can happen in cabaret-going, too, though you have to be willing to go out on a line and look for the wonder. Not unlike gambling, sometimes it's a bust and you have to take the loss and write it off; other times, though, you might find yourself going home pleasantly surprised. That's what happened over the weekend when this writer took a chance on an unknown show.

While doing a weekly study of the upcoming shows at Don't Tell Mama, I saw this artwork:

Review: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN Surprises Pleasantly at Don't Tell Mama

This was the sum total of information available to me, and I couldn't get it out of my head: what was this show going to be about? Speaking personally, I didn't know anything about the 1996 Olympic Games and the Women's Gymnastic Team. I was busy that year. I was, though, ready to learn, whatever the form of teaching the cabaret show would be taking. On the evening in question, Friday night, I arrived at Don't Tell Mama to learn that what we were there to see was a reading of a new musical. My heart sank. Play readings in cabaret rooms can go one of two ways: they could be entertaining or they could be disastrous, and you never know until you're three songs in. For the sake of the creators of The Magnificent Seven, I hoped it was a good experience because, between their selves and the cast, The Original Room at Don't Tell Mama was nearly at capacity, and even when an audience is made up entirely of friends and family, you still want to put on a good show.

What a relief. The Magnificent Seven was a good show.

Review: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN Surprises Pleasantly at Don't Tell Mama The Magnificent Seven is a play with a libretto by Gordon Leary and a musical score by Julia Meinwald. Based on this real-life event, the show has had some workshops in the past, after being developed in Fresh Ground Pepper's PlayGround PlayGroup, and will have a world premiere in June 2022 at the Flint Repertory Theatre in Michigan. What was presented at Don't Tell Mama was, mercifully, not a full play reading: this was a presentation of twelve songs from the play, cleverly strung together by a wonderful conceit. While six actresses seated on stage took turns singing the musical compositions from the play, two actors lit by a pin spot sat just off the stage, in the audience, acting as male and female sportscasters, commenting on the action, remarking on the storyline, and passing judgment on the characters, often with the gymnasts responding with glares, eye-rolls, and sneers. Hopefully, these Statler and Waldorf-like creations are an actual part of the play and not just a device created to assist in this truncated version of The Magnificent Seven, because they, themselves, were quite magnificent.

Review: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN Surprises Pleasantly at Don't Tell Mama Equally magnificent were the women playing the gymnasts. Six actresses named Ally Bonino, MinJi Kim, Amy Linden, Ellen Condon Macy, Allison Posner, and Roslyn Seale play six of the seven women who attended the Olympics back in the nineties. There is no explanation offered regarding the absence of the seventh member of the team, which is entirely the choice of the creators of the evening of music, and hopefully, nobody in the full venue spent the sixty-minute show worrying about it - this writer didn't. I was too busy enjoying the musical performances by the more-than-capable singing actresses tasked with providing the entertainment. There was, in fact, a seventh actress playing a character that may or may not have been a ghostly figure from the past, perhaps a dream of some kind... it was not explained. There was enough vagueness about these two matters to leave one slightly puzzled (perhaps more than slightly) but, again, it wasn't really important enough to spend any time worrying about. This was not a full production of the play, it was a ten-song presentation - it was kind of like the old days of COLUMBIA Records Broadway cast recordings, where a Broadway musical was produced on vinyl, with a record jacket that consisted of show art on the cover and liner notes/song list on the back: you could sort of piece together what the songs were about and how they contributed to the action, by reading the back of the album cover. Not ideal, but effective enough to get you through the enjoyment of the music from the show - and the music from The Magnificent Seven is good.

Review: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN Surprises Pleasantly at Don't Tell Mama Ms. Meinwald and Mr. Leary have written some really enjoyable songs - songs with proper musical theater storytelling that furthers the plot, that exposes the personalities of the characters, and that is a pleasure to listen to, both melodically and lyrically. As the play continues its journey into the light, will all the songs remain unchanged and intact? Perhaps not. Might they be preserved by being moved around like chess pieces to best serve the script? Maybe. On Friday night the songs presented were all satisfying to listen to, even if there may have been an overabundant usage of minor keys for this writer's personal tastes. One is also left wondering what the real play script is like - is it an actual book musical or is the creative skeletal structure used in the cabaret room an accurate representation of the play itself? Musically speaking, though, the adventure embarked upon Friday night was one yielding of reward, particularly in the work of actresses well-suited to the task of performing these surprisingly enjoyable compositions, especially a group number titled "My Body Is" and a duet named "I've Got Her," but the closing number, "The Vault," performed by all six women was quite effective, in every way, leaving the audience quite breathless.

It will be interesting to watch the trajectory of the new play and its creators, not to mention the stellar actors tasked with bringing the story to life before an audience.

Indeed, with artists like these involved with the creation of The Magnificent Seven, it won't just be interesting to watch, it will be a pleasure.

The actors of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and the roles they were playing:

Ally Bonino (Jaycie Phelps)
MinJi Kim (Amy Chow)
Amy Linden (Shannon Miller)
Ellen Condon Macy (Amanda Borden)
Allison Posner (Kerri Strug)
Roslyn Seale (Dominique Dawes)
Victoria Huston-Elem (A Vision from 1984 - aka Mary Lou Retton)
Sam Heldt (Tim Daggett)
Lynne Marie Rosenberg (Elfi Schlegel)

The creative team of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN are:

Book & Lyrics by Gordon Leary
Music by Julia Meinwald
Music Direction by Alex Ratner


Learn more about THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN by visiting the JULIA & GORDON Website HERE.

Find great shows to see by visiting the Don't Tell Mama website HERE.

Review: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN Surprises Pleasantly at Don't Tell Mama
Roslyn Seale N Co.
Review: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN Surprises Pleasantly at Don't Tell Mama
Ellen Condon Macy N Co.
Review: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN Surprises Pleasantly at Don't Tell Mama
Ally Bonino N Co.

Review: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN Surprises Pleasantly at Don't Tell Mama

Review: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN Surprises Pleasantly at Don't Tell Mama
MinJi Kim N Co.

Review: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN Surprises Pleasantly at Don't Tell Mama

Review: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN Surprises Pleasantly at Don't Tell Mama

Review: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN Surprises Pleasantly at Don't Tell Mama
Amy Linden N Co.

Review: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN Surprises Pleasantly at Don't Tell Mama

Photos by Stephen Mosher


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