Review: WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE SEA at Signature Theatre

The production runs until July 7, 2024.

By: May. 31, 2024
Review: WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE SEA at Signature Theatre
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A lot of new musicals lately have been leaning into source material from well-known artists, movies, and even television shows. So, it’s kind of rare to see an original musical nowadays. Signature Theatre’s production of Where the Mountain Meets the Sea, written by Jeff Augustin with music by The Bengsons, and directed by Timothy Douglas, is a gem in an ocean of musicals. What makes this musical a gem is its beautiful combination of oral storytelling and folk music. Furthermore, the presence of just two actors and two musicians demonstrates the impactful nature of musicals without requiring a large ensemble.

In Where the Mountain Meets the Sea, 34-year-old Jonah (Issac “Deacon Izzy” Bell) is a  Black man living in Los Angeles. Jonah is estranged from his father, Jean (Robert Cornelius), who is an immigrant from Haiti who lives in Miami. Their distance and isolation from each other has prevented them from knowing about each other's lives. Jonah hasn't had the chance to tell his father that he is gay. Jean is ill, and hasn't told Jonah. His father is the only family he has left because Jonah’s mother passed away when he was a young child. Upon learning of his father’s death, Jonah embarks on a journey to see the landmarks and cities that his parents did on a cross-country road trip across the United States. 

Issac Bell and Robert Cornelius both give outstanding performances, as they narrate their significant events and moments within their lives. Even when their characters aren’t in the same scene, their presence and energy are felt. Their struggles and joys reach deep into your soul and stay there. Jonah and Jean’s journeys are emotional ones as they deal with grief and love. As an audience member, you feel everything they feel because they are such expressive storytellers. 

Where the Mountain Meets the Seas features five stirring folk songs (plus a reprise) with touching lyrics, and atmospheric background music, which occurs oftentimes during pivotal moments in scenes. Rob Morrison and Awa Sal Secka both sing and play a variety of instruments throughout the musical. Their harmonies with Bell and Cornelius, whose own singing voices lend well to the folk music,  resonate with a quiet intensity and create layer after layer of ethereal echoing. Sal Secka and Morrison are technically and vocally fantastic musicians. Awa Sal Secka’s solo in “Oh My Love” fills the small space with such grace and power. Similar to Luke Bell, Morrison’s singing style is a warm country twang. 

The set, designed by Tony Cisek, makes use of a small black box space. Alternating light and dark colored wood covers the floor and the walls. Embedded between planks of wood along the wall, which looks like the peaks of mountains, there is a transparent ocean wave which moves around the space. The echoing of symbols of these natural elements make a perfect backdrop for this intimate musical.

Signature Theatre’s production, Where The Mountain Meets the Sea, is a touching narrative that explores the complex dynamics between a father and son, set to the soulful sounds of mountain music. You don’t want to miss out on this original musical, which will stay with you in your heart, even after you leave the theatre. 

Running Time: 90 minutes without an intermission

Where The Mountain Meets the Sea runs until July 7, 2024 at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia. 

Top Image Description & Credit: Robert Cornelius (Jean) and Isaac“ Deacon Izzy” Bell (Jonah) in Where the Mountain Meets the Sea at Signature Theatre. Photo by Christopher Mueller



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