BWW Review: MURDER BALLAD at Imprint Theatreworks
Marking the musical debut of Dallas' hottest new theatre company, Imprint Theatreworks' MURDER BALLAD opened last weekend in an intimate, in-your-face presentation. It's an edgy, racy immersive rock show, and whether or not the style matches your taste, the impressive cast is not to be missed.
Staged in and around the fictitious New York City King's Club bar, MURDER BALLAD brings to the stage a cautionary tale about young-and-hip Sara (Brett Warner), who used to date a sexy-and-tattooed bartender, Tom (Kyle Igneczi). But she's moved on to a more sensible hipster, Michael (Aaron White), who soon becomes the father of her young daughter. When Sara's life becomes too plain and ordinary for her, she returns to Tom's bar for a dangerously discreet, but ongoing affair. With the show's narrative led by vocalist Laura Lites, Michael eventually catches on to Sara and Michael's secret, and fate dooms one side of the love triangle.
Now, I won't pretend to say that MURDER BALLAD is a perfectly constructed musical. The majority of the show's structure allows the four-person storyline to take backseat to the interesting (but somewhat forgettable) rock score. But, under Ashley H. White's unique and skillful direction, Imprint Theatreworks' staging of the show is as close to perfect as the show can be. The four singer-actors sing the roof off of the tiny Margo Jones Theatre, with each performer commanding the stage every single time they enter.
On the technical front, Adam C. Wright's band and vocal direction allow both the music and musicians to soar, especially thanks to Brian Christiansen and Riley Larson's perfectly balanced sound design. The immersive scenery and mood enhancing lighting design by Ellen Mizener and Bryan Douglass, respectively, further enhance the piece with a realistic, but dramatic flair. Jessie Wallace's costumes and Michael B. Moore's hair design has the foursome looking unmistakably sexy and ideally designed. But perhaps the most impressive element onstage is an extended fight scene, expertly staged by director Ashley H. White, which is worth the cost of admission on its own.
MURDER BALLAD is an edgy, rarely produced musical with a handful of well-crafted characters and toe-tapping tunes, but perhaps not engaging enough for a 90-minutes without a break or higher stakes. Still, Imprint manages to elevate the text as high as they can take it, and those kickass performances onstage may be four of the best in recent memory. If you go, make sure to catch pre-show performances by Beth Lipton and Jamall Houston, who alternate as the opening act. Cast members mingle with guests during preshow, as well, serving adult beverages behind the bar or suggesting onstage seating (every seat offers an intimate, one-of-a-kind experience).
Tickets and information about MURDER BALLAD and Imprint's upcoming performances can be found at www.ImprintTheareworks.org