Everyone in this ill conceived rock musical, STAND TALL, is being bullied. Goliath (Gerard Canonico) by his father Cassius – a garage mechanic – abuses his wife and angry son. The shepherd boy David (Bryan Welnicki) is bullied by Golaith, his arch rock rival and his girl friend Mia (Jill Shackner) because he is “indecisive”.
Mia, the daughter of the detested King Saul (Jef Canter – who triples as the dad of both David & Goliath) is being forced to marry a Prince she has never met before. King Saul is bullied by his seven wives and twenty children in a song “Seven Wives”. Even the Palace Guard is bullied by the King.
Oh yes, there is Black Sheep (Trista Dollison) the messenger, commentator and narrator of this saga who earns her fair share of being bullied too. I am surprised there isn’t a song “Being Bullied” sung by the ensemble.
The main problem is with the book. It doesn’t support the concept of using the David & Goliath story to tell of the rock rivalry between the two guys. David, the chosen one, doesn’t want to be the new King. He wants to write songs and sing with his band. A band that Goliath used to be a part of.
Blending this story line with the legend is an uneasy fit at best. Nothing makes much sense in this two act show which would benefit by making it a show without an intermission. And the story line gets in the way of some terrific music.
STAND TALL is staged as a rock concert by director Simon Greiff, with the excellent four piece band on stage (Brent Frederick – keyboard, Fima Ephron – bass, David Jolley – drums, and Bernd Schoenhart – guitar).
The score and book are credited “en masse” to Lee Wyatt-Buchan and Sandy & Aldie Chalmers and that’s how STAND TALL comes across – as a conglomeration of styles and ideas that fit as well together as the glass slipper on Cinderella’s stepsister’s too large foot.
Luckily the cast is excellent, headed by a forceful and dynamic Bryan Welnicki as David who has a terrific voice. Jill Shackner’s vocals are equally good, bringing to mind Olivia Newton John. But it is Black Sheep – Trista Dollison who triumphs with her Whitney Houston inspired anthem “Stronger Than This”.
The “epic guitar battle between the biblical rivals” falls flat as they are not playing their guitars – the band is. Duh!
The wonderful news at the 45th Street Theatre where STAND TALL is performing as part of NYMF is that the air conditioner is repaired and running full blast.
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