All was not well at the York Theatre Monday evening January 31st at a preview performance of The Road to Qatar! – a new true musical by Stephen Cole (Book & Lyrics) and David Krane (Music) directed by Phillip George.
The infamous elevator had once again gotten stuck with one lone person inside. The curtain was held a bit until Associate Artistic Director Brian Blythe who was very amusing said that the show would commence immediately and that the lone person stuck would be offered some of their famous PMS cookies and a rain check or as is the case in New York City these days a snow check to see The Road to Qatar! at a later date. An omen?
After the show ended some ninety minutes later I thought that the person who missed this performance was indeed the lucky one.
Shell shocked is the word that came to mind in reliving what I had just been through. The Road to Qatar! comes across as an elementary school production; looking very amateurish. It’s even painful to watch at times – as in the elongated translation scene.
The intention of the creators was to recreate their experiences in the guise of one of those old Bob Hope and Bing Crosby “Road” movies by sharing their experience of writing an original musical for the Emir of Qatar who contacted them via the internet and paid them royally for five weeks of creative output – resulting in “Aspire” which was performed in a huge soccer stadium with dancers, acrobats, etc. – all that the Emir’s money could buy.
By the look at what is on stage at the York either the writers were conning the Emir or the Emir had absolutely no inkling of what constitutes a good musical – which could be amusing. It isn’t. “Aspire” might be aptly called “Perspire” with all the demonic energy set forth by the cast of five. Plus a camel – one of the true highlights on stage. He even poops!
The Road to Qatar! is supposed to be funny in the vein of a Marx Brothers meets Bing & Bob meets Title of Show meets Sid Caesar meets the Middle East mindset where everything is bigger (including flops). It misfires. Puns abound and much of the dreaded dialogue is sung. Songs are not as melodic as they are annoying.
For the record the cast does its best trying to convince us they are in a hit show and selling it to us with huge smiles plastered on their faces as they race to change costumes to become other characters. They are James Beaman, Keith Gerchak, Bill Nolte, Bruce Warren and Sarah Stiles.
There is an wide screen overhead that projects super titles lest we miss anything: Dubai Bye Birdie, Babes in Oil Land and the lyric to “Aspire” a song actually from the original production – photos of which are on view in the lobby of the York which I glanced at briefly as I escaped into the cold night via the staircase arriving street level winded but relieved. www.yorktheatre.org
Photo: Carol Rosegg
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