Shakespearean Jazz

| July 26, 2017

Shakespearean Jazz

The Green Room 42, NYC, July 21, 2017

Reviewed by Annamaria Alfieri for Cabaret Scenes

The New York Musical Festival seeks to nurture new musical theater. Its mission: “to provide an effective platform to introduce new shows, new perspectives, and new blood into the musical theater canon.” Composer Patrick Greeley’s Shakespearean Jazz is an excellent case in point, a work that needs a place to develop into all it can become.

The concept has enormous potential: to sing the Bard’s words to jazz melodies. The players in this New York debut were young, attractive, enthusiastic, charming, and in fine voice, if not always up to the challenge of enunciating the poetry and putting it across. All are alumni of Emerson College, and the crowd in The Green Room 42 made the venue feel like a reunion of recent graduates.

The Shakespeare selections were songs, speeches from the plays, and sonnets. The jazz melodies ranged from classic New Orleans to blues to rocking spirituals. Highlights were Sheldon Brown’s mournful “Come Away, Death” (Twelfth Night), and Daniel Irwin’s “Silvie” (The Two Gentlemen of Verona), which was beautifully sung first in French and then in English.

To realize its potential, the show needs a seasoned stage director—one who knows how to even out its inconsistencies and tone down the instrumentalists. The band, especially the drummer, almost always overwhelmed the voices and therefore blotted out the words—always a sin in sung music. But when the words are Shakespeare’s, it felt more like a crime.

The audience got a clear idea of what the show can become with the best offering of the evening, the one song that delivered completely on its promise: “109,” the sonnet which begins “O never say that I was false of heart…” performed by the composer—Patrick Greeley—in his lovely, heartfelt tenor voice to a sweet, romantic tune. When he began to sing, the room fell silent, with that hush that comes over a crowd when the performance goes from mere entertainment to high art.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, New York City, New York City Cabaret Reviews, Regional

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