Head To The The Algonquin Lodge For Some Vacation Cheer

I don’t suppose I knew, getting in, that Concord, the brand new musical from e-book/lyric author, Bruce Sussman (Ted Tally’s Coming Points of interest) and music author Barry Manilow now on Broadway on the Ethel Barrymore Theater, relies on a real story. However because it sings itself out to us, it begins by taking us again to the Carnegie Corridor stage of 1933, however then shifts even additional again to Berlin, Germany 1927, giving us a clearer image of what is likely to be coming at us. Panning out in tones not so refined and using the narrative construction of a typical reminiscence play, a narrator, performed by the endearing Chip Zien (Broadway’s unique Baker in Sondheim/Lapine’s Into the Woods), stands ahead, middle stage, ushering us into the previous and this story. His title, he tells us, is Rabbi, and he as soon as was, again within the day, a member of a comedic singing group in Berlin made up of six younger males who may harmonize and craft a joke like few others may. The group, ‘The Comic Harmonists‘, was an internationally well-known, all-male German shut concord ensemble that carried out between 1928 and 1934. As one of the crucial profitable musical teams in Europe earlier than World Struggle II, they steadfastly rose to fame and fortune because the Nazis got here to energy in Germany, and inside that historic framework, the dye has been forged and the stage set.

Zien is most positively an affable determine, one assured to take us by means of this sophisticated and emotional story with knowledgeable ease, and we really feel protected in his testimony. The elder Rabbi pulls us in, ushering us again to the primary days of the group, and becoming a member of in with the enjoyable every time he can. It’s a young starting, and as directed and choreographed with vitality by Warren Carlyle (Broadway’s After Midnight), we’re ceaselessly cognizant of the place this all will likely be heading. Zien rapidly lets us into the framework, informing us that he’s the one surviving member of this long-forgotten troop of singers, and he’s right here to inform us their story in order that they received’t be forgotten. Noting the historic panorama, we will’t assist however know the place we’re being delivered to, and it’s not all that surprising the place we are going to find yourself.

Blake Roman, Steven Telsey, Zal Owen, Danny Kornfeld, Eric Peters, and Sean Bell
in Broadway’s Concord. Picture by Julieta Cervantes.

With a gaggle title that doesn’t precisely roll off the tongue, they arrive along with a joyful readability, delivering the cool notes of a well-cast harmonic group. The crew of six, together with an excellent Matthew Mucha (CFRT’s Memphis)-an understudy for the absent Danny Kornfeld (Barrington’s Fiddler on the Roof) who normally performs the parallel a part of Rabbi, youthful and sweetly entwined with the opposite 5; Sean Bell (HBO’s “Succession”) as Bobby; Zal Owen (Broadway’s The Band’s Go to) as Harry; Eric Peters (Nationwide tour: Motown the Musical) as Erich; Blake Roman (Paramount+’s “Blue Bloods”) as Chopin; and Steven Telsey (Nationwide tour: The Ebook of Mormon) as Lesh; come collectively neatly. All of them match into properly categorized stereotypes that sing, make scene jokes, and journey the world entertaining their audiences with an ever-increasing quantity of success, all beneath the watchful, however pseudo-approving eyes of the Nazis.

The six singers, all scrumptious and pleasant to look at, ship the products solidly, even with songs that aren’t precisely memorable. However they positive look and sound good (and generally even nice). No marvel they’re seen nearly as good public relations personas to the world, particularly with their variety, however as an viewers member who is aware of what’s coming, it doesn’t sit so simply within the pit of our stomachs. The Nazis, as embodied by Andrew O’Shanick (“Pitch Excellent“) as Standartenführer – who claims to be a fan – don’t even appear to thoughts that quite a lot of the group members, however not all, are actually Jewish. This comes as a shock, as most Jews and their equivalents have been being robbed of their livelihood, their cash, and their passports. However not these boys. Even once they push the boundaries of their PR protections exterior of Germany, nothing occurs, at the least not instantly.

The drama of the musical’s story is performed out with conviction on a simple uncomplicated set by scenic designer Beowulf Boritt (Broadway’s New York, New York), with formulation costuming by Linda Cho (Broadway’s Take Me Out) and Ricky Lurie (Gallery Gamers’ Godspell), ingenious lighting by Jules Fisher + Peggy Eisenhauer (Broadway’s Gary), and a stable sound design by Dan Moses Schreier (Roundabout’s Bother In Thoughts). It expenses ahead, however oddly, doesn’t maintain us emotionally tight in its arms, working too lengthy, and feeling soft-focused and generally generic in tone and kind.

Julie Benko and Sierra Boggess in Broadway’s Concord. Picture by Julieta Cervantes.

Even so, the musical does experience melodically and (a bit too) melodramatically ahead, courtesy of music director John O’Neill (Broadway’s The Music Man), orchestrations by Doug Walter (Broadway’s The Blonde within the Thunderbird), and music coordination by Michael Aarons (Broadway’s & Juliet), showcasing finely tuned numbers that don’t cling round within the head for very lengthy. The musical additionally affords up some romance, however just for two of the six members of this group. The others, I suppose, simply actually centered on their voices and their all-for-one unanimous strategy. The strongest focus, naturally, is on the younger Rabbi’s love for the non-Jewish Mary, fantastically embodied by proficient Sierra Boggess (Broadway’s College of Rock). It’s a sweetly compassionate engagement, however to be trustworthy, the extra fascinating, however much less embraced relationship is with Ruth, performed forcibly by a robust Julie Benko (Broadway’s Humorous Lady understudy), a Jewish political activist who falls for and marries the non-Jewish good-looking piano man, Chopin, who fails her when issues begin heating up. The 2 {couples} occupy the one relationships unpacked, past the secretly rich and related Erich‘s briefly offered affair with the fabulous Josephine Baker, performed enthusiastically by Allison Semmes (Broadway’s Motown). That’s a facet journey that doesn’t actually take us wherever past a enjoyable Act Two opener. However, the foursome makes for an fascinating and problematic connecting of opposing religion dots, giving loads of possibilities for drama and emotional insincerity.

Sadly for the six, they aren’t as clear or involved as we’re with their ongoing security and safety in Germany. And that’s principally the turning level of this musical. Past that, it’s fairly normal situation stuff. The unlucky half for us is that not a lot right here in Concord is completed with any subtlety or nuance. The e-book is lower from a standardized fabric and melody, and with Barry Manilow credited with composing and arranging the songs, one would suppose the songs could be extra memorable and/or catchy. However there are a number of that stand out, particularly those sung most fantastically by the proficient two feminine leads on this male-dominated forged. Notably, the very fairly and significant “The place You Go“, which radiates heat and care. It carried a sure one thing particular, effectively at the least for the primary two-thirds of the track.

Chip Zien in Broadway’s Concord. Picture by Julieta Cervantes.

Right here lies the principle drawback with most of the narrative songs and the present itself, together with the beautiful “The place You Go.” Too most of the numbers sound like and have been directed to be 11 o’clock numbers, with among the songs having multiple 11 o’clock second stuffed inside. So after the third or fourth one in all these excessive dramatic finishes, they begin to lose their attraction and punch. Once we lastly do get to Rabbi’s huge finale quantity “Threnody“, we’ve been worn down by too many huge powerhouse endings. ‘Threnody’, it seems, means “a wailing ode, track, hymn, or poem of mourning composed or carried out as a memorial to a lifeless individual“, which makes full sense because the present’s principal 11 o’clock quantity. Not the subtlest of track titles, I would add, however sadly for Concord, due to all the opposite huge numbers earlier than it, the track, powerfully carried out by Zien for the opposite 5 members, fails to land (past being impressively sung), particularly within the emotional manner it was meant to.

Past the silliness of some well-known cameos, like Josephine Baker and Zien in a wig enjoying Albert Einstein (and extra), Concord tries to emotionally interact so typically that we begin to really feel numb to all of it, which is strictly the other factor this present got down to do. It’s too dangerous, for the reason that expertise, a lot of whom are making their Broadway debut, is all there sounding good and singing their hearts out. And the story is a compelling one. However Concord didn’t discover its manner ahead into my emotional core. There are not any refined undercurrents, which makes it onerous to remain tuned in, past simply the floor degree. Cabaret the musical, as we are going to see as soon as once more on Broadway within the spring, discovered the suitable elements to unpack the horror with out hitting us too onerous with all of it, just like the second inside Concord when the Nazi officer salutes straight out into the viewers, an act that each triggers some trauma (particularly with what’s happening on the planet right now) and clobbers us manner too onerous and with none subtlety with the heavy gravity of the state of affairs. Some might disagree with me on this, however for this theatergoer, the understated stance is extra profound than the onerous hit, with too many huge 11 o’clock numbers hammering residence the purpose, one after the opposite. One “Threnody” would suffice.

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