“BKLYN The Musical” at Porthouse Theatre is simply OK
The word of the day is “repurposed” and in its strictest definition means the re-use of items that previously would be destined for the landfill. With the show “BKLYN The Musical” not only is the set and much of the costuming repurposed but the show itself seems to be a mish mosh in themes of former Broadway hits such as “Annie”, “Rent”, “Dreamgirls” and “Oliver” with a good bit of American Idol thrown in.
The story concerning the writing of the musical is in itself and interesting tale. Mark Schoenfeld and Barri McPherson had worked on an album together. Twenty years later. Barri now married and a Massachusetts mother and housewife is in New York for a visit when she finds Mark eeking out a living by performing on a Brooklyn street corner. She invites her former partner to come back to Massachusetts where they again start to write songs together using Mark’s experiences of living on the street. Thus “BKLYN The Musical” is born.
The show is a play within a play about a rag tag group of seven homeless musicians who call themselves “The City Weeds” and who perform on a makeshift stage in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The play they perform begins in Paris as Faith (Olivia Billings), a cabaret dancer of note, and Taylor (William A. Porter), a soon to be drafted American youth fall in love. Taylor gets his draft notice and returns to the States to fulfill his duty writing faithfully to Faith every day. The letters are intercepted by a jealous lover. Faith who feels abandoned soon finds herself pregnant with Taylor’s baby.
Faith has the child and raises it alone while pursuing her dancing career. As Brooklyn (named after the borough that Taylor was raised in) is growing up her mother grows more and more despondent over her feeling of abandonment eventually committing suicide. Brooklyn ends up in an orphanage run by nuns and there finds her singing voice.
As an adult now on her own she begins a singing career and as she becomes more popular in France decides to go to America to find her dad. In America she meets up with Streetsinger (Miguel Osborne) and the City Weeds (Dylan Berkshire and Maia Watts) and luck smiles on her as she manages to become even more famous as a singer in the States. At the end of each of Brooklyn’s shows she sings an unfinished lullaby that her father wrote in the hopes that he is in the audience. Brooklyn’s quick rise to fame threatens the current reigning diva Paradice (Moriah Cary) who challenges Brooklyn to a sing off in Madison Square Gardens.
As Brooklyn finally meets up with her alcoholic and drug addicted Viet Nam veteran dad she dreams of the two of them finishing and singing the lullaby at the sing off against Paradice.
As for the show it is a case of a cast being able to transcend the material. With a confabulated story line and rather unremarkable songs they manage to squeeze out every ounce of showmanship that can be found. Of special note is Kirstin Henry as Brooklyn whose diminutive stature hides a really powerful voice. Miguel Osborne as Streetsinger brings a balance of softness to the show. Moriah Cary as Paradice rocks the joint with her bluesy powerful voice. William A Porter is convincing as the addicted dad who is still fighting the demons that haunt him. Olivia Billings as Faith does a fine turn in her role. Rounding out the cast are Dylan Berkshire and Maia Watts as the Street Weed backup singers.
While some will rave at this show as they did on opening night others will walk away a bit confused as to what all the fuss is about. If I would grade the show I would give it a strong B-. It is for the most part entertaining but not as good as it could be.
Bklyn The Musical will run through July 24, 2021 at the Porthouse Theatre located on the Blossom Music Center property. For tickets and information visit https://www.kent.edu/porthouse/bklyn-musical or call (330) 672-3884.