Oscar E Moore

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Hurricane – at New York Musical Theatre Festival

October 8th, 2009 by Oscar E Moore

Given the short rehearsal time period allotted for productions partaking in the New York Musical Theatre Festival, the entire creative team behind Hurricane – the almost entirely sung through, original two hour show with a cast of thirty written by Michael Holland (Music & Lyrics & Book) and Eric Bernat (Book) – with incredible costumes by Karen Ann Ledger, wonderful orchestrations by Jesse Vargas and directed by Michael Bush – can be congratulated for their artistic vision and their considerable artistic achievements.

In September of 1938 a totally unexpected hurricane hit southern New England without any warning from The National Weather Bureau.  It was high tide and there was a full moon during the fall equinox.  The coastal town of Napatree, Rhode Island was destroyed along with many of its inhabitants.  It is here where the musical Hurricane takes place.  It’s not your usual singing in the rain story.

From the opening notes of the oft times melodic, lush and soaring score which includes many styles we are treated to an opening number that rivals that of Ragtime.  We are introduced to the Delgado Sisters (perfectly dressed and in perfect harmony – Natalie Charle Ellis, Catherine Charlebois and Mishaela Faucher) a local singing trio – a Greek Chorus that appears throughout, who immediately set the period and tone of the show. 

We also meet the many characters that inhabit Napatree along with some ghosts who have seen it all before and are there to morally support Helen – a well to do busybody (Rita Gardner),  Margaret her long time suffering Irish maid (Karen Elliott), her daughter Lil (Brittany Lee Hamilton), and Nicky, Lil’s Portuguese fiancé (Joey Khoury). 

Then there is Caroline a wealthy housewife (a stunning Christy Morton) her husband Jeff (John Antony) their son (Alec Cohen) and daughter (Maya Frank).  Other locals include Joe Silva, a Portuguese farmer (Joseph Mahowald) his son Junior “June” who wants to be a dancer (Zachary Clause) and Norm, the bus driver (Steven Watts).  What a collection of glorious voices, especially in the ensemble numbers.  It is simply thrilling to hear them – with terrific vocal arrangements by Michael Holland.  They are all superb.

These are the folks who surround the guts of the musical.   Charlie (Steven Booth) a junior meteorologist who fears that the storm is headed North, tries to convince others that it could be disastrous.  No one will pay any attention to him, especially his arrogant supervisor Mitchell (TJ Mannix).  Both Mr. Booth and Mr. Mannix deliver Tony Award winning performances.  They are fabulous together.  Their final scene is incredibly moving.  If only the focus were more on them – with some of the extraneous numbers either whittled down, rethought or eliminated altogether – for example, the futuristic very entertaining but what is it doing here beach number with its All That Jazz vamp.

Too much time is spent on giving all the characters their time in the spotlight when a tighter focus on Charlie and Mitchell might help better shape the production.  The lyrics do not always come up to the high quality of the music – which can sometimes be breathtakingly beautiful – but not very memorable on first hearing.

Although Michael Bush always leaves his creative stamp on whatever he directs and can skillfully coax superb characterizations from his actors and keep things moving fluidly while making some lovely stage pictures the book and score need some refining and cutting down to have Hurricane reach its full potential. www.hurricanethemusical.com

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