Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lysistrata Jones @ The Walter Kerr Theatre

What happens when you take an ancient Greek play and mix modern day music, choreography, and a little bit of spunk? You get Lysistrata Jones, a brand new musical that modernizes the ancient story of Lysistrata, the woman who refused to satisfy her man, unless she got what she wanted.  Instead of taking place in ancient Greece, the show takes place in modern times at a college that has seen some less than amazing basketball games. 

The musical closely parallels the plot of the ancient Greek play Lysistrata, with some artistic liberties to bring the story in to the 21st century. In the original play, Lysistrata leads the women of Athens to stop having sex with their husbands and lovers until the long-lasting war is finally ended. In the musical, the men's Basketball team at the fictional Athens University has lost every game for the last 30 years, when finally a cheerleader named Lysistrata Jones transfers to the school.  She is tired of everyone giving up so she inspires the girls at the school to stop having sex with the basketball team until they finally win a game.

Although the entire product of the show was excellent, some of the acting talent had the audience wondering, “How were they casted?” Patti Murin (Xanadu, Give it Up!)  played the title role and she was a Greek Elle Woods, in the sense that she was a blonde college girl willing to do anything to get what she want. Whenever she’s on stage, her tiny body suddenly becomes 12 feet high and you can’t take your eyes off of her. Sure, she’s a knockout but her performance was everything you want it to be in a show like this: fun, spunky and bursting with personality. Liz Mikel (Give it Up!, Friday Night Light's) was the eldest member of the cast and brought wisdom to the stage. Mikel acted as the narrator, or Greek Chorus, of the show, as well as the “lady of the night” in which everyone turns to for help. Her performance was nothing less than god-like. Josh Segarra (Fat Camp:The Musical) played the popular team captain and hidden poetry buff, Mick. Besides from Segarra’s abs, his performance was less than impressive. Sure his singing was great but his acting and dancing was no greater then a high school performance. The two "outsiders" at the school are the brainy feminist, Robin, played by the phenomenal Lindsay Nicole Chambers (Hairspray, Legally Blonde), and the introverted activist, Xander, played by the brilliant Jason Tam (A Chorus Line, Les Miserbles). Jason won over the audience with his impeccable dancing and vocals, especially on "Hold On." Lindsay with her quick wit and shining enthusiasm had the audience in stitches the entire performance. This show  relies heavily on the ensemble and half of them seemed to have let the team down. The male ensemble members singing were off-key, they weren’t hitting jokes and the acting was awful to say the least. Thankfully the female ensemble was truly inspiring; each and every one of them brought something different to the table which filled the stage with light.

Dan Knechtges (Xanadu, Sondhiem on Sondhiem) both directed and choreographed the production. The choreography was overall impressive but at times seemed to be sloppy, but not the numbers you would think; the musical numbers that had more technical dance was all clean, it was the simple choreography that was all over the place. Lewis Flinn(Like Love, On Girl) wrote the music and lyrics for this show, and if there is anything about this musical that is all around stunning, it would be the music. The constant upbeat songs had the audience dancing in their chairs the entire performance. Douglas Carter Beane(Xanadu, Sister Act)  wrote the book and although comedy wise it was brilliant, the other serious material was less then satisfying.

The technical aspects were the saving graces of this show. The set design was done by Allen Moyer (Grey Gardens, After Miss Julie). He put you smack dab in the middle of a college basketball court, which worked well even when the scenes were happening in other places. Thomas Charles LeGalley (Broadway Debut) and David C. Woolard (West Side Story, All Shook Up) collaborated on the costumes and they were nothing less than perfect. They gave us the sense of the atmosphere and a sense of place and character, especially the costumes for the college toga party. Michael Gottlieb (Broadway Debut) designed the light and he kept it bright to help support this fun and upbeat musical.

Overall the performance was fun and exciting to see.  Some things need improvement, but there are a lot of good aspects to this show.  The music is phenomenal and some of the vocals are amazing.  If you want to see something different, and something that will keep you entertained, go see Lysistrata Jones, now playing at the Walter Kerr Theatre.

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