BWW Review: EMERGENCY Has Hearts Racing at Hudson Guild Theater
Doctors, gorgeous male nurses, patients with weird objects up their behinds and eager interns dueling for the chance to be in the center of it all...could you ever imagine a hospital emergency room to be so much damn fun? A special place where lives can be changed (for better or for worse), boys become men over the course of a graveyard shift and the stage manager earns a much deserved standing ovation for her impromptu performance as an old lady. The tension of saving patients' lives goes hand in hand with saving your own hide - a battle of intern versus intern to win the coveted spot on the emergency team without becoming the emergency yourself.
Recently in performances at the Hudson Guild Theater, Emergency is a spectacular new musical that has a literal pulse - a life all its own that explodes onto the stage to cure its audience of all possible ailments; as they say, laughter truly is the best medicine, and this show is nothing short of just that.
Written by a father-son team (the perfect combination of doctor and composer), Emergency features book, music and lyrics by Jeff Foy and Jacob Foy and is directed by Jeremy Quinn. In association with Visceral Entertainment, the production recently concluded a three-performance run at Hudson Guild Theater as part of the New York Theater Festival's SummerFest series. Winner of the Ken Davenport Inner Circle Grant and the truly the perfect blend of comedy and the kind of drama that puts life into perspective, Emergency wowed its audiences straight through to a standing ovation, and has undoubtedly left an impression on this critic's mind.
With a cast led in song by music director Lena Gabrielle, the cast of Emergency pours its collective heart into every twist of comedy and trauma this show has to offer. From the very beginning, when two interns discover they must compete over the course of one night to win a spot on the hospital staff, to subplots featuring a luscious male nurse (who also some great dance moves), budding romances, close encounters and missed calls and a young man whose fading will to live brings the significance of it all to a head. Kyle and Justin are two people who, as intelligent as they are, each has his faults: Justin would rather research the most likely problem on his tablet rather than listen to his patients, while Kyle is manipulative and never misses the chance to put himself in the best light (which includes trying to refocus nurse Kathryn's interest in his nemesis to himself). Moments of laughter, fear and everything in between make this hospital a little microcosm of the world, unique because of the people who become part of it and how the experience ultimately brings them the joy they deserve.
From the songs to the choreography (led by Lexie Fennell Frare), Emergency is just a well-rounded production that is like a big fish in a small pond. Bringing together a professional cast that has seen its fair share of bigger stages, the more intimate space of the Guild was truly graced with their talents. Giving their all to make the audience's collective pulse quicken with each moment of laughter or anticipation, there really wasn't a dull moment to be had. As much fun as this musical is, though, there was also such a beautiful lesson to be learned at the end of it all. Life is so precious, and the people who walk through the door of that emergency room are just that much closer to seeing everything around them fade away.
So saying, Bobby, a man who repeatedly comes back and is humored for his "freeloading" attempts, is my favorite character of all. In a room full of doctors, and over the course of quite some time, no one had bothered to learn why he was really there - no one took the time to understand that here is so much a person can lose because of doctors who refuse to be there for the reasons they ought to be. Through all the laughter and crazy antics, his character brings everything together in a moment of perfect clarity when he steps away from the building's edge and chooses to live.
So, too, does the audience feel the true power of this musical. Not only is the plot engaging and the music catchy, but the way it portrays a human being's strength (although sometimes faltering) in the midst of uncertainty is beautiful. We can all relate to these characters in some way: Kathryn's struggle to support her young sister, a couple celebrating fifty years of marriage in a hospital bed and not on the deck of a cruise ship, and Justin, who is clearly the better choice but cannot get past the lack of trust people have in him. Through all this, we see that each moment is significant - each struggle brings out the true beauty of a life that is unpredictable, but still headed somewhere. And it is with Emergency that we realize everything can culminate in hope - I would say that describes those within the show, as well as the potential this musical has to move forward to. I'm sure this won't be the last time we hear of Jeff and Jacob Foy.
Kudos to a wonderful cast for bringing this story to such vibrant life. Maddie Shea Baldwin, Owen Beans, Teren Carter, Emily Cramer, Susan Cohen DeStefano, Fred Frabotta, Jose Gomez Jr., Amy Griffin, Kevin Hack, Kimberly Hicks, Matthew Hougland, Jaiden Klein, Nick Kohn, Robin Lounsbury, Nakiya Peterkin and Keith White do an absolutely wonderful job in giving Emergency such a strong pulse. Joining them are Scenic/Lighting Designer David Goldstein, Costume Designer Sarah Zinn, Sound Designer Patrick LaChance, Props Designer Deb Gaouette, Stage Manager Kristen Tunney and Assistant Stage Manager Ellie Handel. Orchestrations are by Doug Katsaros.
Emergency had three performances at the Hudson Guild Theater, located at 441 West 26th Street. For more information on the SummerFest, please click here. Also check out the exciting things Visceral Entertainment has in store by visiting their website here.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel