PUTON A HAPPY FACE
Despite high hopes for a gorgeous and spacious venue, the inaugural musical “Fiorello!” did little to create a sense of professionalism in the new Performing Arts Center.
Highlighting the life of former New York Senator and Mayor of New York City Fiorello LaGuardia as he rose to political power, this musical seemed to have a hidden agenda during this election year with a New York Senator running for Presidency.
The book and musical score left something to be desired compared to shows such as “Fiddler on the Roof” or “The Music Man.” The scenes were disconnected and choppy, with songs that didn’t really have a start or a finish.
The cast did what they could with the fragmented story, which takes place over a decade, but struggled through the difficulties.
The supporting cast was mediocre, with occassional moments of quality. Sound quality was a major problem. Some actors had very clear and resonating voices while others sounded garbled.The theater’s sound booth is placed behind the first section of seats, a great distraction to anyone sitting behind the tenth row.
Fiorello falls in love with Thea, played by Marilyn Morgan, and instead of a sweet love song, audience members complained that they couldn’t understand a word Morgan sang. Her acting was also not on par, and it was difficult believing most of her moments.
As Fiorello’s secretary and eventual love interest Marie, Masaya Palmer was one of the stronger performers in the show. Her vocals were clear and her comedic timing was keen.
Fiorello himself, played by Terry Christopher, was undeveloped for being the title character. Christopher’s pleasant voice and strong acting skills, however, would be properly showcased in a better written musical.
The best numbers by far were the ensemble numbers, where the strength and support of the cast finally filled the venue. While the individual performers struggled with sound issues, the combined voices were a joy to listen to.
Notable were the gentlemen in the “Politics and Poker” song and the ladies who joined voices in “Unfair.”
The show’s standout performance was tap dancing number “Gentlemen Jimmy,” performed by Amanda Shay as Mitzi and a chorus of tappers. An exciting addition to the musical, this number woke up the audience as the only real dancing in the show.
The tap dancers were clearly skilled, and with this kind of talent it is a wonder the production staff didn’t select “Singing in the Rain,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” or “42nd Street.”
Behind the scenes, the theater arts staff worked hard to offer a unique “Roaring 20s Gala Event,” with pre-performance hors d’eourves, jazz music, vintage cars and a light dessert.
Within the venue, the seats themselves are stacked directly in front of the row ahead limiting visibility. The seat width is also very minimal, with no room to stretch and providing for an uncomfortable situation when adding a lack of air conditioning.
In spite of working hard to offer a rarely heard of musical in a new venue, the experience was disappointing. From the caliber and dynamics of the show to the venue itself, the Performing Arts Center leaves something to be desired after the amount of money spent to build it.
IT’S A DEAL
SONG AND DANCE