Saturday, March 17, 2007

PLAY: "Magpie"

Magpie wants to be a cross between West Side Story and The Fantasticks, but it's too small to be epic and too realistic to be dreamy. Funny though: Magpie's greatest success is in the Act II opening: an epic parody of an opera that takes place in Maggie's dreams. This breezy musical won't be revolutionizing the musical theater, but its multicultural beats are a nice change of pace. It's as cute as it is distracting, and as light as it is unfinished. I dig the digs (a corrugated black metal cityscape that folds in and out like a storybook), but I dislike the mikes on all the cast members.

Magpie is on the right path: now it just needs enough focus to find a place for that work which the jaded male lead, Tino (a layman for the young theatergoing public) so casually dismisses as irrelevant to his life. Hip as the gritty bike messengers pretend to be, or hip-hop as they get while singing "Another Day" or step-dancing up in someone's face, they're still useless to the plot. It needs more songs like "Crazy Girl, Loquita" and "Give Her Back Her Music," and less songs like "No One Had a Clue in Santiago" and "Trust Your Heart." There's nothing better than lovesick duets or strained ballads; there's nothing worse than solos for side-characters that add nothing to the book. It could also use a few technical touch-ups with light cues and the audible static from an over-miked cast.

Magpie's strength shows every time the focus sticks to the star-crossed lovers (they--Jessica Fields and Ronny Mercedes--are also the best singers); wander around too much and it becomes clear that despite being a modern Romeo and Juliet (if Romeo took Ritalin and Juliet was medicated for seizures and mental instability), Steven M. Jacobson's script is far from Shakespeare. If the Amas Musical Theatre company must meander, let them dabble more in producing a more diverse, layered soundtrack: Act I is a rich blend of modern and classic, but Act II goes over to the old time sound of simple rhymes and simpler beats.

Ah, let them eat cake. Or in this case, let them eat pie. I came out of Magpie without a song in my head, but with a big smile on my face because of how cheery the entire show is. If Amas is willing to keep workshopping this show, it has the potential to be an urban Light in the Piazza.

[First published to New Theater Corps, 3/17]

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