Friday, August 3, 2012

The Last Smoker In America @ The Westside Theatre (Upstairs)

With the current election race afloat, the entire country is turning to see what the government has to say.  Better yet, the whole country is looking to see if the government says the right things … though depending on the person, those thoughts vary.  There is one thing that is crystal clear, however, about the view currently being taken in the new musical comedy The Last Smoker in America – the govern has no right to stop us from doing what makes us happy, even if that happiness harms us … or do they?  Okay.  So, maybe the point is not so crystal clear.  But, in this uncertainty, this hilarious musical does exactly what it needs to do – make Americans think.  Whether you are pro-smoking or anti-smoking, you are bound to enjoy this fresh, funny, and innovative American musical.
Meet Pam.  Pam is a loving wife and mother.  Her husband, Ernie, dreams of writing the next great rock anthem.  Her son, Jimmy, is a typical teen – lost, confused, into rap and video games.  All in all, Pam is a normal, average, everyday housewife.  Until, new strict laws on the use of smoking tobacco make Pam the official last smoker left in America.  Now, Pam faces the ultimate decision – quit smoking or fight against the powers that be.  One lets her life stay on track; the other lands her in jail.  While she might want to rebel, know-it-all, Jesus-loving, anti-smoke leader, Phyllis is her next-door neighbor.  Between the crazy coming from Phyllis, the concern coming from Ernie, and the teen-angst coming from Jimmy, all Pam could really use, is the one thing that she is not allowed to have – a cigarette.
Four actors dominate the Westside Theatre on a weekly basis, delivering hilarious performances that can knock the cigarette out of one’s very own hand.  Leading lady, Farah Alvin (off-Broadway’s The Marvelous Wonderettes), takes control of the stage from scene one and never lets go!  She is smart, funny, and deeply moving.  No matter what one’s stance on smoking currently is, Alvin makes you forget all about it, and route for her right to light up!  The man of the house is brought to life brilliantly by John Bolton (Curtains).  Ernie may be a fully-grown adult, but he sure does not act like it – Bolton brings all of the youth and energy needed when playing this role, especially while belting out songs in the style of Aerosmith! Rounding out the family tree is Jake Boyd (off-Broadway’s Carrie) as Jimmy.  Boyd does a lovely job of conveying the difficulties of being a teenager in today’s society.  From his insane rap number to his need to wear high-heels, Jimmy is a fun character that Boyd totally tapped into.  Rounding out this crazy talented ensemble is Avenue Q veteran Natalie Venetia Belcon as the crazy ass next-door neighbor, Phyllis.  Whether decked out in her Sunday best, gangster gear, or Irish step uniform, Belcon delivers a truly unforgettable performance!  Her soulful voice carries across the theatre and into the hearts of the audience, even when she is singing lyrics on crack.  Together, these four actors form a tight knit ensemble that lands every joke, hits every note, and delivers each shocking punch!  A true joy to watch on stage!
This wild new musical was conceived by Bill Russell (Side Show) on book and lyrics and Peter Melnick (Adrift in Macao at Primary Stages) on music.  If shock is what this team was going for, then they nailed it!  With each new word and lyric crazier than the next, infused with wild music styles from gospel to rock to rap, The Last Smoker in America might not be mainstream theatre, but it is sure as hell fun and entertaining to watch!  All of this wildness is under the direction of Andy Sandberg (producer of the current Broadway smash The Best Man).  While Sandberg’s direction was not superior, often leading the cast in awkward circles and poses, he did manage to form a fabulous creative team.  Charlie Corcoran (Master Class) delivers a wildly colorful set design that looks both futuristic and hauntingly modern, like this world is not to far away, at the same time.  Lightly this world is master lighting designer Jeff Croiter (Peter and the Starcatcher).  Drawing on traditional lighting, rock concert lighting, and theme park lighting, Croiter creates this brilliant fusion of styles that takes both the set and book to a whole new level.  Also shining is costume designer Michael McDonald (Hair), who has the task of creating hundreds of different looks from 80s glam to gangster to Elvis.  Rounding out the team is choreographer AC Ciulla (Footloose) who proves fun and energetic moves that fill the stage and bring the songs the breath of life needed to make them pop!  This team delivers one crazy, insane, wild night of theatre!
Similar to the likes of Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon, this brand new musical is shocking, funny, full of heart, and does not give two damns whether or not you agree with its message (as the advertisements say, it’s “unfiltered”).  The Last Smoker in America is an off-Broadway triumph – with great performances and wonderful design – not to be missed!

No comments:

Post a Comment