Review - Marcy In The Galaxy: Lost In The Stars

By: Apr. 13, 2008
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Lighting designer R. Lee Kennedy has a planetarium's worth of stars flooding the Connolly Theatre's stage at the outset of Transport Group's production of Nancy Shayne's new musical, Marcy In The Galaxy. But gleaming through the clusters is the face of Donna Lynne Champlin, shining with hopefulness and wonder. The galaxy her title character occupies is actually the Galaxy Diner of Hell's Kitchen but Marcy is also one of the countless number of barely distinguishable stars that form the spiraling galaxy of Manhattan. The musical's story of a struggling artist nearing 40 and wondering for how long she can continue the struggle is a familiar one, but though Shayne's material offers no unique spin, her chamber musical is an inviting and sincere charmer mounted by Jack Cummings III with a light and whistful touch.

It's New Year's Day and as the diner's philosophical waiter (Jonathan Hammond) observes how, "On January first the past, the present and the future converge," Marcy sits alone in set designer Sandra Goldmark's railroad style dining room, looking over help wanted ads while her painting career flounders. While avoiding phone calls from her disapproving fraternal twin sister (Jenny Fellner), she recalls a visit from her widowed mom (Teri Ralston), who's got a new boyfriend and is off for a luxury cruise. Meanwhile, two older women at nearby table, Joyce (Mary-Pat Green) and Dorothea (Janet Carroll), complain bitterly about nearly everything because they've reached the age where they feel nobody notices them.

Though it all may sound rather bleak, the mood remains upbeat and lightly comic. Mark Berman's orchestrations for piano, cello, viola, clarinet and flute present the pleasantly uncomplicated music in a graceful manner, but Shayne's best work comes in her conversational lyrics which sometimes come out in unexpected rhyme schemes and often avoid rhyming altogether. The choIce To perform the one-act piece without applause buttons keeps the arcless plot moving freely.

On stage throughout the piece and rarely given a break from being the center of attention, Champlin's warmth and spunk, combined with sterling vocals and intelligent, emotional phrasing, keep Marcy a sympathetic presence. Green and Carroll handle their comedy deftly, Fellner's sisterly concern is touchingly genuine and Ralston's misguided attempts to help her daughter are funny and sweet. Hammond's unflappable waiter, sung with a soothing baritone, keeps the mood nicely grounded while Marcy's yearning for success on her own terms finds her lost in the stars.


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