BWW Review: MURDER BALLAD at The Edge Theater
Murder Ballad is The Edge Theater's premiere musical, and hopefully they realize what a killer space they have for the genre.
The rock musical, which played Off-Broadway back in 2013 after a run with the Manhattan Theatre Club, is still fresh on the regional scene, making its Rocky Mountain premiere with this company.
Directed by Rick Yaconis, Murder Ballad is essentially a steamy love triangle with a narrator, but I'll let the press release give you the comma-licious plot, since I don't think I could do it better:
Sara (Shannan Steele) and Tom (Kent Randell) are a hot item, Tom can't commit, Sara finds Michael (Robert Michael Sanders) to get married and have a baby, Sara Gets bored and calls Tom, Tom falls back in love, Michael flips out, Sara breaks it off with Tom to stay with her husband and child, Tom won't have it and stalks Sara. Someone must die. All of this is told by a narrator (Mary McGroary) who has secrets of her own.
With a book by Julia Jordan, it's a short show (an intermissionless 90 minutes), and while the plot may come off as complicated, it isn't a bumpy ride. If there was an intermission (hell, even a long blackout), I'm not sure Ballad could keep its momentum. Its score satisfies a driving energy that feeds on emotional fuel. It takes place at the King's Club, an immersive bar setting that's in your face, right where it needs to be.
The music (by singer/songwriter Juliana Nash, with lyrical aid from Jordan) has a folksy storytelling vibe but with a bit more of a pulse. Jason Tyler Vaughn leads the band. This isn't your typical collection of show tunes, though. The score flows like a rock opera, and while I couldn't pull out a single number (it starts to feel like one long song), this is one of those absorbing pieces where you go back to the album and listen all at once. I could give-and-take some of the lyricism, though. It felt like it was trying too hard at points.
But what a dynamite cast. Steele's Sara is vivacious. Sanders brings a welcome edge to Michael while keeping him grounded. Randell gives the kind of stimulating electricity you need from Tom. McGroary narrates the ballad with a sultry magnetism. Their vocals combine into the kind of balanced harmonic magic you want in a sensual murder musical.
If you like your theatre edgy and your tunes a bit more indie, this is one worth catching. And who doesn't love a sexy murder mystery? I'm stoked to see more of this from The Edge.
The regional premiere of Murder Ballad plays The Edge Theater (off West Colfax on Teller St. in Lakewood) through Sept. 26. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m. There's dancing in the King's Club on Fridays and Saturdays after the show. On Saturday, September 24 there is a special cabaret performance at 11:45 p.m. (no 8 p.m. performance). Tickets are $32 ($40 on September 24) and available online at TheEdgeTheater.com or by calling (303)232-0363.