Spy Review: The Broadway Jukebox by Steve Parks

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The classic jukebox with the flip-over 45s is a museum-piecethrowback, although you can still drop a quarter into table-booth mini-models at chrome-framed American diners. “The Broadway Jukebox” format performed by the high-energy Brown Box Theatre Project, a Boston-based troupe now touring the Delmarva Peninsula, practically guarantees you’ll hear the song for which you cast your ballot just before the opening curtain.

But it’ll cost you more than a quarter.

It’s worth the investment. You won’t hear the original recorded version. Instead, you’ll be treated to a live onstage interpretation of your top Broadway choices accompanied by a bigger-sound-than-you’d-imagine from a three-piece ensemble, led by music director Liz Kantor.

Arriving early for the show gives you time to vote for two Broadway songs or medleys in each of five categories. In this new “Broadway Jukebox: Revolution” musical revue—no do-overs from last spring’s tour—selections fall under the Diva, Contemporary, Classics, Animation and Written by Rockers designations. Although it’s fun to pick your favorites, the conceit that the cast will sing only the most popular audience choices is a ruse. A harmless one, for sure. In most categories all or all but one of the song candidates were performed, at least in part.

Among my faves—by performance, not by my vote—were the back-to-back baleful love dirges from wildly divergent Broadway vehicles: “Fine, Fine Line,” as in “there’s a fine line between love and a waste of time” from the puppet-dominated “Avenue Q” and the rueful “She Used to Be Mine” by Sara Bareilles from “Waitress.” Lisa Kate Joyce deploys baby-girl lamentations in drawing a fine emotive line between devotion and devastation while Carly Grayson ranges from whispering to wailing in romantic regrets.

However, the show’s earliest numbers seemed over-miked, producing some vocal distortion. Also, lighting was insufficient for the large Ocean City Performing Arts Center stage Thursday night. You couldn’t make out singers’ faces unless they stepped forward from the raised onstage orchestra pit. As the show progressed, tempo and volume varied and the players wanderedenough to ameliorate such distractions. In other respects, Kyler Taustin’s direction resulted in a crisp and inviting one-and-a-quarter-hour presentation.

In the Rockers grouping—though I’d rate Carol King as more singer-songwriter than rocker—Neo Gcabo put a mean Motown spin on “I Feel the Earth Move” from the jukebox-musical“Beautiful.” The gentlemen of the cast led in a firearmscrossover of shows designated as Rockers and Classics. Cam Torres delivered a raucous “21 Gun” salute from Green Day’s “American Idiot,” while X. Alexander Durden” dramatically reminded us of the historical havoc squeezed by “one little finger” in “The Gun Song” from Stephen Sondheim’s “Assassins.”

The most contemporary of the Contemporary ballot choices was “Moving Through a Window” from “Dear Evan Hansen,” reflecting the perils of social media addiction, while “Who I’d Be” from “Shrek” among the Animation picks lent a sense of the isolation of freaks, such as green ogres. Diva credits go to “Dreamgirls’ “ “Listen,” urgently sung by Gcabo.

Among medleys, the ensemble shined to ABBA, the Swedish disco wonders whose repertoire featured “Dancing Queen” and the jukebox musical’s title song “Mamma Mia!”

The revue’s “Revolution” theme emerged throughout, from “Les Miserables’ ” anthem to “Run Freedom Run” from the tragi-comic “Urinetown,” where failing to pay to pee can cost your life. Among the off-ballot surprises adding to the theme was the title song from “Tick, Tick . . . Boom,” the posthumous Off-Broadway musical by Jonathan Larson, Pulitzer and Tony winner for “Rent.”

I won’t give away the encore, lest it differs in subsequent tour stops. (Hint: John Waters.) But it sent the audience away on an upbeat note.

Steve Parks is a retired journalist, arts critic and editor now living in Easton.

The Broadway Jukebox: Revolution”Oxford Community Center, 8 p.m. Sunday, May 26

Snow Hill, The Blue Dog, 8 p.m., May 29

Chestertown, outdoors, 200 block of High Street, 7:30 p.m., May 30

Salisbury, outdoors, Pohanka Riverwalk Amphitheater, 8 p.m., May 31

Cambridge, Dorchester Center for the Arts, 8 p.m., June 1

Berlin, Worcester County Library-Berlin branch, 8 p.m., June 2

Tickets: 443-808-1215, brownboxtheatre.org

 

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Letters to Editor

  1. Patti Hegland says

    The performance is FREE in Chestertown on Thursday May 30 at 7pm. It will be outside in front of the Garfield Theatre. Sponsored by MainStreet Chestertown and Chestertown’s Arts & Entertainment district.

    • YES! It’s a FREE show in Chestertown, courtesy of the Chestertown Arts & Entertainment District and Main Street Chestertown. In inclement weather, we’ll move inside the Garfield Center.

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