A remarkable and unusual new musical with beautiful words and music by Michael John LaChiusa, QUEEN OF THE MIST, will be running for only two more weeks at The Gym at Judson 243 Thompson Street @ Washington Square South.
I strongly urge you to see this emotionally packed, entertaining and inventive production by the Transport Group Theatre Company directed by Jack Cummings III that is stamped throughout with his distinctive style and eye for detail nicely complemented by the choreography of Scott Rink.
It is incredibly thrilling when all of the theatrical elements that make for a classic musical come together – the fantastic lighting effects by R. Lee Kennedy, sound design by Walter Trarbach (that transforms an acoustical nightmare of a gymnasium into a listening pleasure), simple yet precise period costumes by Kathryn Rohe (note the shoes), scenic design by Sandra Goldmark that evokes the turn of the century with a bit of lace which allows us to view the orchestra playing the phenomenal orchestrations by Michael Starobin – each and every component allowing for the freight train performance of its leading lady Mary Testa as Anna “Annie” Edson Taylor – a 63 year old widow who seeking fame and fortune decides to use her wit, intellect, scientific knowledge and her great ability to talk almost everyone into anything – to shoot the Falls at Niagara in an oaken barrel of her own design. And survive. A true story.
If she were writing this review the line outside the Gym at Judson would curl right around Washington Square Park twofold. As well it should with yours truly suggesting such.
You will not be disappointed as I falsely believed I might have been. What a strange subject for a musical I thought. Well, I was overwhelmed by this production featuring not only the exceptional and stalwart Mary Testa in a role perfect for her multi talents – portraying a woman with a fierce determination when others thought her nuts, a woman with a pure driven focus on her destiny, a woman who “thought like a man” and unfortunately believed that “pride would be her downfall” – but a cast of six other immensely talented actors.
Andrew Samonsky as Mr. Frank Russell, Anna’s Manager with his oily hair, rumpled wrinkled clothes and drunken demeanor who happens to have an equally strong presence and gorgeous voice is the perfect foil for Anna.
As her sister Jane, Theresa McCarthy brings a thoughtful and confused attitude towards Anna but always with an underlying affection and positively shines as she plays a substitute version of the woman who went over the Falls in an hilarious vaudeville act.
Carrie Nation (a forceful Julia Murney) makes an appearance as Anna tries to convince her to let her speak first on the lecture circuit taking her down a peg. And Tally Sessions as “Man with his Hand Wrapped in a Handkerchief” – Leon Czolgosz whom she meets and inadvertently urges him to follow his passion and act on it which results in President McKinley being assassinated.
After she fires Frank she needs a new Manager and he is the wonderful DC Anderson. As a young doughboy who remembers seeing her “stunt” when a young lad, Stanley Bahorek has one of the loveliest and touching scenes of the show with a down and out Anna selling souvenir postcards that no one wants.
Yet she remains true to herself. As we have rooted for her in Act I to achieve her dream so do we feel for her when she starts to lose her mind, lose her speech and begin to go blind. Where we finally see her hidden emotions emerge.
It is the soaring score, the intelligent and witty words and music filled with the melodies of Mr. LaChiusa that make QUEEN OF THE MIST so uplifting and memorable. You will laugh, you will cry but most importantly you will be transported and remember the show and the woman who is finally getting the recognition she so longed for.
ONLY TWO MORE WEEKS. GO!
www.transportgroup.org Photo: Carol Rosegg
NOTE: QUEEN OF THE MIST will be archived on film by the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts – however that’s not the same as seeing this unique and engaging musical LIVE.
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