When I received an e-mail early Sunday morning alerting me to the fact that understudy Celina Carvajal was going on for Leslie Kritzer in Rooms – a rock romance which I had given a Hit Alert! review to ( which I will re-post following these comments) I couldn’t wait to see her in the show.
I had previously seen Celina in the Off-Broadways musical BEDBUGS!!! at NYMF (outstanding actor award) and a reading of Allies (another rock show) and thought she was a dynamic performer with an excellent voice and personality, so I thought that she would be terrific as Monica in Rooms.
Unfortunately the scenario of the understudy goes on and a new star is born didn’t manifest itself. Leslie Kritzer undoubtedly owns the role of Monica one hundred percent as evidenced by her recent Outer Critics Nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Musical. With Celina opposite the still fabulous Doug Kreeger the entire balance of the show was off. He needs someone as strong if not stronger to supply the momentum of their story. Whereas Leslie supplies a great deal of comedy to offset the seriousness of Doug’s alcoholic character, Ian, I thought I had stepped into another show devoid of any comic relief whatsoever. There was also an obvious absence of any chemistry between the two performers. I say this with great admiration for Celina. It’s amazing what two excellent performers can do and cannot do with the same role. I absolutely adored Leslie Kritzer’s powerhouse comic and moving performance and I do not fault the man who upon finding out that Leslie was not performing had his ticket refunded for another time.
In my original review I said “take away one factor and it just wouldn’t be the same”. It wasn’t. Rooms a rock romance has also received an Outer Critics Circle nomination for Outstanding New Score and Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical.
Hit alert! Hit alert! When was the last time you went to see a new musical on or off- Broadway and came out humming a tune? Well, at least part of a tune. Rooms, a new rock or rather “rocky” romance of a musical by Paul Scott Goodman (music, lyrics and book) and Miriam Gordon (book) will have NYC humming and buzzing and cheering till the heather on the hills of Scotland is no longer.
Husband and wife collaborators have written this terrific show about collaborators Monica P. Miller a “Scottish Jewish Princess” lyricist (one of the funniest songs from the show) who is hell bent on becoming a famous and rich rock star with WIT (whatever it takes) and she means it! – and Ian Wallace a subdued Catholic songwriter who loves his guitar purchased at Woolworth’s more than anything else including celebrity and is hell bent on self destruction with whiskey. They say opposites attract and in this case it’s kismet. Doug Kreeger as Ian and Leslie Kritzer as Monica are perfection as the oddest of odd couples with charisma by the bucketful and voices to match.
There seems to be no stopping her- singing “Bring the Future Faster” and “All I Want Is Everything” says it all. She’s a tornado. Someone who “could sell a condom to the Pope.” From the moment she hands Ian the lyric that she needs a new composer to write the music for to be performed at a Bat Mitzvah that week he reluctantly is seduced into their whirlwind professional journey to the top of the charts from Scotland to London to New York (1977-80). Then it gets personal. The ups and downs of their tumultuous relationship are told in wonderful song. The lyrics of which are especially well crafted, character driven, funny, compassionate and moving. You won’t hear better, anywhere. The always tuneful music is performed by the onstage band that never overpowers but enhances the two rock birds.
The amazing double tour de force performances have been beautifully directed by Scott Schwartz. He should be much in demand. His idea to use a single doubled faced white door, which is on wheels, and moved about the stage to represent the various rooms and locations almost becoming a third character is put to brilliant use and is a technical theatrical treat.
Everything on the stark set is exposed. The band. Speakers. Brick walls. Lighting equipment. And the souls of Ian and Monica. You can’t help but care for them. Falling in love with them as they fall for each other and routing for a happy ending. Discovering what makes them tick. How they write a song together. “Clean” which condenses Ian’s two years of being off the sauce is simply a great piece of writing.
Rooms is an ensemble piece. Of course, there are the two marvelous actors and director and writers at work. But the choreography by Matt Williams, the expert and marvelous lighting by Herrick Goldman, scenic design by Adam Koch, quick change costumes by Alejo Vietti and well tempered sound by Jon Weston complete the ensemble. Take away one factor and it just wouldn’t be the same.
This is a musical for all ages. An unconventional love story that bridges the traditional and the new. Rooms is well structured, well written, has a charm and wit all its own –
AND it rocks! See it, WIT (Whatever it takes)!
www.RoomsARockRomance.com New World Stages 340 W. 50th Street Tickets $10.00 – $69.50
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