Essentially Rent, but half as long and without everything that makes Rent unlikeable to modern sensibilities. Monumental Theatre Company’s top-notch production of Brooklyn the Musical, which ran for a few months on Broadway a decade ago, offers plenty of pleasures for the eyes and ears despite a lackluster underlying story.
Billed as a “Sidewalk Fairytale,” Brooklyn, the musical, concerns the journey of Brooklyn, the character (Briana Taylor), as she searches for her long-lost father (Jonathan Helwig) in Brooklyn, the New York borough. Her mother (Amanda Leigh Corbett) was abandoned by him in Paris, you see, and she killed herself out of longing for her missing man after raising young Brooklyn for some years. On her way to finding her “happy ending” – assuming you believe in happy endings, as the characters frequently ask you to do – Brooklyn becomes an accidental pop star in a tabloid rivalry with mega-diva Paradice (Taylor J. Washington).
The tale is narrated by a charming man known as the Streetsinger (DeCarlo Raspberry) and told as if our storytellers are people experiencing homelessness, right in front of us on a street corner or in an alleyway.
This milieu offers director Michael Windsor and his imaginative team of designers to conjure a variety of fairytale elements from seeming junk – a glittering gown made of trash bags, popstar microphones out of discarded camera tripods and cleaning tools. The walls are adorned with clever, neon graffiti (Javier Del Pilar), and the theater space itself – a dark, in-the-round concrete cube of a room with precipitous catwalks above – feels like a cross section of the hardscrabble city.
Brooklyn the Musical
closes March 31, 2018
Details and tickets
The songs are excellently constructed if unmemorable, but serve as superlative showcases for the powerful talents in the company. Raspberry enraptures as soon as he opens his mouth. Washington explodes each of her disco- and soul-inflected songs into your ears. (It’s no matter that they don’t sound anything like the top 10 hits of a supposedly celebrity popstar.)
The rest of the cast have lovely voices – leading lady Taylor’s is a little reedy, but sweet – and would be standouts but for being up against the superlative Raspberry and Washington. Whenever the orchestra comes down and the team harmonizes, it’s rapturous.
Forgive the predictable turns of plot. Forgive also the well-intentioned but empty exhortation to remember “the heart behind these hands” of the people we pass on the street, a message that plasters over any number of internal contradictions and social realities. This production is a stomping good time, and a chance to let a number of young, talented performers, musicians, and designers transport you with heartfelt, bold characterizations and tunes.
Brooklyn the Musical . Music, Book, and Lyrics by Mark Schoenfeld and Barri McPherson . Directed by Michael Windsor . Featuring Amanda Leigh Corbett, Marika Countouris, Jonathan Helwig, Ashley K. Nicholas, Decarlo Raspberry, Briana Taylor, Taylor J. Washington, Topher Williams . Music Direction: Marika Countouris . Choreography: Patricia “Pep” Targete . Lighting Design: Rob Siler . Set Design: Michael Windsor and Rob Siler . Costume Design: Tommy Malek . Sound Design: Ryan Hickey . Props Design: Richard Farella . Orchestra: Marika Countouris (Conductor), Brian Berdan, Matt Brown, Sam Carolla, Marque Nelson, Gary Snead, Austin Stahle . Graffiti Artist: Javier Del Pilar . Stage Manager: Abi Rowe . Produced by Monumental Theatre Company . Reviewed by Brett Steven Abelman.