Monday, September 13, 2004

Lulu play

This brief article, by Wally Rubin, appeared in the September 10 issue of Variety.

"Presented by Fearless Productions as part of the New York International Fringe Festival at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher St., NYC, Aug. 24-28.

Lulu is a new musical by two graduates of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, based on two plays by German Expressionist playwright Frank Wedekind. The plays were also the basis for an opera by Alban Berg and a 1929 silent movie starring Louise Brooks, famed for her bobbed hairstyle. It is the story of Lulu, a young, amoral man killer, and of the unbidden effects of love, how passion and lust can overrule rational impulses.
Composer-lyricist Adam Gwon and Courtney Phelps, who wrote the book with Gwon and directed, have set this Lulu against the backdrop of the roiling 1920s, when jazz, booze, and silent movies were all the rage. Think La Ronde meets The Wild Party, which, not so incidentally, are both works that have been musicalized by Michael John LaChiusa, who is clearly on influence on Gwen. The style (if not the effect) of the writing is similar, with the same penchant for a restless sound that distrusts melody, and an arch tone that is equal parts bitter and wistful. Gwon shows potential, but he needs to find his own voice and allow his characters greater specificity, giving us reasons to care more about them. At the moment, they seem like ideas culled from other sources.
Broadway veteran Brooke Sunny Moriber was Lulu. She has the perfect 1920s face, with a small mouth and pale porcelain skin, and is gifted with both a distinctive belt and soprano. Jessica Morris, Selby Brown, Daniel C. Levine, and Maggie Letsche all have strong voices, and it was a treat to hear them unmiked. Kevin Kern as a young screenwriter with sunken cheeks and curly blond hair had a melancholic manner that appropriately set him apart. Trevor McGinness' costumes were impressively all of a piece."

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