Tuesday, August 11, 2015

reviews - MURDER BALLAD - A/C Theatre Company

Marshall Glass, Cassie Chilton, Kim Richards and Miguel Jackson
Photos by: CJ Mascarelli
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through August 22nd.

"...Murder Ballad...written by Julia Jordan with music and lyrics by Juliana Nash.  Told by a narrator and acted out by three others, the opera tells the relatively simple story of a New York City love triangle with a murderous conclusion.  Sara (Kim Richards) has shed her downtown NYC past, including previous boyfriend Tom (Miguel Jackson) and has moved uptown.  She’s now married to Michael (Marshall Glass).  She even has a child.  But a bad decision makes her stray, resulting in a fling with her downtown past and with Tom, ending with the crime that the narrator (Cassie Chilton) has already warned us would happen.  “Listen and I’ll tell a tale,” the narrator sings.  “A tale where good does not prevail.”  Under Tim Shawver’s assured direction and Casey Weiler’s effective sound design,..the band is a four piece lead by Mark 4Man and they’re a tight, talented bunch...The four performers sing well, particularly Cassie and Kim...The issue with the production is...the clarity of lyrics.  Occasionally a voice will slur a sentence or worse, a mic will drop, resulting on something important in the narrative missed.  The story is uncomplicated, but it’s the motivations that are important, and with the occasional lack of enunciation or the simple lack of not being able to hear what’s being sung, not everyone is going to get it all of the time...None of the songs will resonate, ...plus the music is not inspired by anything current...But there’s something more exciting about this new production to consider, and it isn’t just the show itself; it’s the organization behind it.  A/C Theatre Company is a new theatre troupe that, like its geographical location, is the Phoenix that has risen from the ashes of companies that have sadly fallen before it.  With talent seen either on stage or working behind the scenes of previous productions under different banners, A/C Theatre Company – ... has arrived with a modicum of fanfare presenting contemporary stage musicals that are considered underrepresented in Phoenix. The importance of Murder Ballad is not so much the show, it’s witnessing the opening salvo of a new theatre company full of promise and solid talent with an edge showcasing what can be done. " -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"...A/C Theatre Company's first show, the Valley premiere of the 2012/2013 Off-Broadway musical Murder Ballad is a worthy debut production as this rock-centric show is a far cry from the usual commercial, well-known titles that tend to be done year after year by every company in town. While the musical itself isn't perfect, A/C's production is a worthy presentation, with a talented cast, atmospheric creative elements, and a smoking hot band....The 80-minute piece is sung-through with enough plot incorporated into the lyrics to not be confusing. However, the main problem with Murder Ballad is that the story is slight, familiar, and less than exciting. Fortunately, the score, with book and lyrics by Julia Jordan and music and lyrics by Juliana Nash, has a number of repetitive hooks and themes, a few of which you'll probably be remembering afterwards, which help detract somewhat from the slim plot.  A/C's cast is talented, led by Kim Richard as Sara. Richard has a powerful voice and the right look to make Sara at home in both of the worlds she finds herself in. ...Marshall Glass instills Michael with a mixture of nerdy, hipster, and boyish gestures that make it easy to see why Sara falls for him. Glass also has a nice chemistry with Richard, making you believe Michael loves Sara, and you also feel sorry for Michael once Sara finds herself being drawn to her past with Tom. Glass shows Michael's emotions on his face and the several fights he has with Richard's Sara are quite realistic and emotional...Cassie Chilton does a fairly good "rocker chick" impression as the Narrator, with wails and a husky, smoky delivery as she guides us through the ups and downs of the story.... As Tom, Miguel Jackson unfortunately has the least amount of range to play, though his solo "You Belong to Me" shows you exactly the type of forceful and seductive person Tom is ...Director Tim Shawver uses just about every area of the space to stage the action. Greg Hynes' vibrant set design is a seedy, dive bar with a large pool table at the center. While the set is static, Shawver manages to effectively portray the various locales of the story, even using the pool table as a stand in for the bed in Sara and Michael's apartment. While most of Shawver's staging works well, especially a crackerjack moment toward the end of the piece with all four characters moving in unison around the pool table, there is one bit toward the beginning, with Sara and Tom fumbling their way around the various set pieces, that is just clunky. With the four-piece band playing Justin Levine's orchestrations exceptionally well, Mark 4Man's music direction is simply superb. Daniel Davisson's lighting is excellent, always following the constantly moving characters and changing locations with ease, with the added bonus of some great floor mounted lighting that ups the intensity of several scenes....While Murder Ballad may not be the most original musical out there, it does have an interesting idea, with an intriguing plot point of just who will be the one murdered. It also has an intense score with rock hooks and memorable themes. Even though the end may be a bit underwhelming due to the slight and somewhat basic story, A/C Theatre Company's production is full of passion with a good cast, solid direction, theatrically rich creative aspects, and a superb band."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

“...Name-checking “Mack the Knife,” “Hey Joe” and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” the theme-setting lyrics seem to promise a tongue-in-cheek celebration of the tabloid appeal of violent crime stories. Yet in between this title tune and a rousing comedic coda, Murder Ballad turns out to be far more, well, deadly earnest than we have been led to expect....The question here isn’t whodunit but who will end up doing it to whom, but in this 80-minute one-act, the plot and character development are both, well, streamlined, to put it nicely. We don’t really get to know the three angles of the love triangle well enough to know whom to root for, even though there’s no denying the hipster charm of the four performers, who belt and croon with nightclub-worthy charisma...energetic songwriting by Juliana Nash..with lyrical assistance from playwright Julia Jordan. ...director Tim Shawver might wish he’d had more time to develop the not-quite-dance choreography, which has the actors laboriously climbing up and down on the furniture of the barroom set, including a rickety little pool table that occasionally threatens to tip over. But even if the movement is less polished than the music, Murder Ballad delivers genuine thrills when the singers plant their feet and emote like rock stars....an impressive debut for A/C Theatre...." Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

"...A/C Theatre Company's inaugural production of Murder Ballad, the tour de force rock musical, conceived and written by Julia Jordan and Juliana Nash,...charged out of the chute with a magnificent and electrifying staging..., directed by Tim Shawver and featuring four of the Valley's top talents. The tale of the Ballad's love triangle is told by the Narrator (the superb Cassie Chilton), a craftily etched character in her own right who keeps a close eye on all the parties to the plot and is a riveting on-stage across-the-stage presence. At the heart, so to speak, of the triangle is Sara (movingly portrayed by Kim Richard), a downtown and downhearted girl looking for love and finding it, at first, in the arms of barfly and later bartender Tom (the finely tuned Miguel Jackson). The fling lasts until she's drawn to Michael (well-played by Marshall Glass) who offers Upper West Side promises of a ring, a baby, and the affluence that comes with an MBA.  Sara has made it ~ a good man and a good life and a good baby ~ but, after time and a growing sense of uselessness, she draws herself back to a fling with Tom. Realizing the error of her ways, she breaks off the affair and returns to home and hearth. Tom won't let go and, in a confrontation among the three at a playground, the transgression is revealed. Yes, it's a seesaw of emotions ~ of approaches and avoidances, of the irresistible lure of imagined escapes from reality ~ and in the hands of this cast, the ups and downs are played extremely well ...Kudos to the cast for their brilliant vocals and their astute interpretations of their characters and to Mark 4man for his band's robust musical backup...."  -Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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