By Jeff Ward; Directed by Michael Schiralli
Produced by The Council of Nine
Part of the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Musicals
Runs through 8.27.16
VENUE #2: Flamboyan Theater at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street
by Josephine Cashman on 8.23.16
BOTTOM LINE: Take One comprises three whimsical short musicals about God, Michelangelo, and Richard Rodgers, and their disastrous “first takes” of some of their greatest creations.
Creation is hard and sometimes you don’t get it right the first time around. Take One imagines God, Michelangelo, Richard Rogers, and the first drafts of some of their most iconic works. First drafts can be…well, terrible. In three short musical acts, writer-composer Jeff Ward shows us that even geniuses (or celestial beings) don’t always hit it out of the park the first time. The cast is made up of seven actors playing multiple roles who comically show us these lost, first takes.
In the “The Ballad of God,” God (Tom Alan Robbins) shows up and announces that he wants “a crazy universe with a crazy mixed up plot.” So he creates the universe, the earth, animals, and then….Adam and Eve (Rob Brinkmann and L.R. Davidson). They’re good. They’re very, very good. They’re obedient. They follow the rules. They’re everything a Father could want from his children. And they’re boring as hell. So God recruits his friend the Serpent (the slinky Caroline Schmidt) to help him cause trouble. Exasperated, God waits for Cain and Abel (Corrado Alicata and Carl Howell). After setting up the First Sibling Rivalry, he waits…and waits. Alicata and Howell are entertaining as the warring brothers, but this First Family is "determined to be ‘not not happy’” (since they haven’t created a word for unhappy). Clearly, things aren’t working out as God planned. "The Ballad of God" is interesting, but it’s long and the pace dawdles; the music is chirpy but uninspired.
Then comes “The Ludovico Technique” (no relation to A Clockwork Orange). Michelangelo (Keith Varney) has “Painter’s Block,” and the Pope is impatiently waiting. Michelangelo’s first take is ungodly awful. The Pope insists that Michelangelo get an assistant, and Ludovico (Howell) is the young man who shows up to help. At first resistant, Michelangelo is soon lulled by Ludovico’s words and they fall into a passionate affair. Howard is adorable and sweetly earnest, and Varney does stellar work as the cranky, isolated, and deeply in love Michelangelo. The music is gorgeous and inspired as we see the soulmates come together. Schmidt also has a hilarious turn as the bloodthirsty Savonarola. "The Ludovico Technique" is far and away the strongest and most moving act of the night.
The last piece, “Intervention!," is comical and all too short. Loosely based on Oklahoma!, we see Richard Rodgers (Howell) feuding with his partner Oscar (Varney) about Jud’s major song. Rodgers envisions Jud as a well-reasoned man who handles disappointment and looks towards the future with optimism. The song is light-hearted, jaunty, and very, very funny. Oscar isn’t having any of it, and he calls in the troops for, you guessed it, an intervention. The final song “Ya Gotta Make a Sacrifice” is toe-tapping and memorable, and I found myself humming it as I left the theatre. This lively and cheerful piece is woefully short—I was sorry it ended so quickly.
Special mention goes to music director and pianist Nathan W. Perry, who seems to play his piano almost non-stop throughout the show. The music never falters and he and the cast work well together. Director Michael Schiralli does a great job with his terrific cast, and has some inventive and quirky staging. “The Ballad of God” needs editing, and the sound levels could be adjusted, but all in all, Take One is an enjoyable, quirky evening.
(Take One plays at VENUE #2: Flamboyan Theater at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street, through August 27, 2016. The running time is 1 hour 40 minutes. Performances are Sun 8/21 at 8:30; Mon 8/22 at 9:45; Thu 8/25 at 2; Fri 8/26 at 9:45; and Sat 8/27 at 4:30. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit takeonethemusical.com.)
Take One features a book, music, and lyrics by Jeff Ward. Directed by Michael Schiralli. Music Director is Nathan W. Perry. Set and Props Design is by Lauren Page Russell. Costume Design is by Betsy Rugg-Hinds. Lighting Design is by Coby Chasman-Beck. Production Stage Manager is Brianna Poh. Executive Producer is Tim Hurley.
The cast is Tom Alan Robbins, Caroline Schmidt, Rob Brinkmann, L.R Davidson, Corrado Alicata, Carl Howell, and Keith Varney.