New York City Theater
Plymouth Theatre, Manhattan
How refreshing to have a new musical on Broadway which is not a rehashing of a show we've seen numerous times! Moreover, it indicates a trend in a new direction for the Broadway musical-the pared-down, pocket musical. Instead of the overblown production numbers of past shows, "Brooklyn," which has just opened at the Plymouth, features a cast of five which more than fills the stage.
And what a cast! Kevin Anderson, Cleavant Derricks, Eden Espinosa, Ramona Keller, and Karen Olivo sing their hearts out. With these voices, one doesn't need the over-miking and over-amplification (which, unfortunately, is at hand). Despite this, each performer creates a memorable, heart-breaking character as the story unfolds. Both Keller and Espinosa, in particular, are dynamite singers, and when they are caught up in a contest to determine which is the best diva in the world, it is indeed hard to choose between the two.
Granted that "Brooklyn-the Musical" has similarities to "Rent" and "Hair"-as others have pointed out. Like its predecessors, "Brooklyn" is the tale of a young person struggling to survive in dire surroundings. A flower blossoming in a dump (or, in this case, a street corner under the Brooklyn Bridge)!
But actually "Brooklyn" is its own show. It is a whimsical modern day fairy tale, with book, music and lyrics by Mark Schoenfeld and Barri McPherson. In this story a boy and girl fall in love in Paris. But he is drafted for the Viet Nam war, leaving her behind and, unknown to him, pregnant. They never see each other again. She, a single mother, becomes despondent and kills herself, her child left in a Parisian orphanage. He, traumatized by his war experiences, returns to the States, a drunkard and junkie. The little girl grows up, becomes a noted singer, and eventually goes to the States to find her father.
All pretty schmaltzy. But handled with such grace that one forgives the overdose of sentimentality. Top-notch performances more than compensate, as do songs that charm and an ingenious set (courtesy of Ray Klausen) of crumbling bricks and debris which takes new forms as needed.
In all, a lovely little pocket musical that should enjoy a long Broadway run.
-- Irene Backalenick
Oct. 23, 2004