‘My Dear Watson’ at NYMF Looks at the Holmes/Watson Relationship

Kyle Stonr, Justin Mousseau, John DiDonna working on “My Dear Watson”

The New York Musical Festival is in full swing this month through August 6, 2017. My Dear Watson played during the first week. The show is a musical look at Sherlock Holmes as told by his friend, Dr. John Watson. Impressive is the fact that the production is funded in part by The Conan Doyle Estate, the family estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories from 1887 to 1927. With some revision, My Dear Watson has good potential to go to another stage after this Festival and do a more extended run. It has some good music, including songs that  tell a story. Several of the songs are lovely ballads. The music covers an aspect of the Sherlock Holmes stories not usually seen.

The show’s book, music and lyrics are by Jami-Leigh Bartschi.  Bartschi is a long time Sherlock Holmes fan and her devotion to the famous fictitious detective shines through in this musical.  Working alongside this accomplished writer is John DiDonna as the director and the assistant director, Jaz Zepatos. The music for the show is played on a piano by Pati Sayers and violin played by Eri Park. These two instruments served the music well as they created an atmosphere that added both suspense and emotion to the play.

The Story

The musical opens as Holmes (John DiDonna) and Watson (Kyle Stone) are brought together for their first meeting by Inspector Lestrade (Justin Mousseau). Both men are down on their luck and need each other to help pay the bills of daily living. As things improve, they find that they have developed a bond which keeps them together with Holmes doing his amazing logical and analytic detective work and Watson recording all that the master detective does. Fans of the Holmes stories will be pleased to see Mrs. Hudson (Liz Curtis) tending the house where the pair room.

The tension in the story builds as Professor Moriarty’s (Jason Blackwater) presence becomes known. Holmes realizes this man is his equal and could be the end of him. After a well choreographed struggle between them, both are presumed dead. Watson is a broken man realizing his great friend is no longer on earth. However, the clue that he might still be alive comes as the final scene which ties in nicely with where the genre went with its own path.

The first half of the musical is a little slow in parts. However, the start of the second act takes on fabulous new life as Professor Moriarty’s character comes more into focus. The scenes between him and Holmes are among the best parts of the show. The songs in the second half are stronger as well. If some changes could be made to the first act, then this show could be well on its way.

Personally, I have never delved into Sherlock Holmes stories. However, I developed an interest in learning and seeing more of it from going to this show. When a musical does that for a viewer, it tells you that the show should continue on!

NYMF 2016 – A Sunday Visit to Two Shows

NYMF Facebook photo
NYMF Facebook photo

The New York Musical Festival 2016 is in full swing. I was able to make my first visit this past Sunday, July 24 when I saw two shows.

Photo credit K Nowosad
Photo credit K Nowosad
The first show was at the June Havoc Theatre on W. 36th Street. This was my first time in this venue. It’s a black box style theater. On a very hot summer day, the air conditioning was running well and there were plenty of amenities such as easy access, bathrooms, etc. I saw A Scythe in Time which is based on two stories from a master of short stories, Edgar Allen Poe. The two stories, “How to Write a Blackwood Article” and “A Predicament” are combined to make this show. A Scythe in Time has a book by Alan Harris. Music and lyrics are by Mark Alan Swanson. Let your imagination carry you through this show because when you do, it is fun to see despite the dark basic theme that runs through the show. The songs are well written and the singing from the cast alone is worth going to see.

Photo by K Nowosad of cast board for "A Scythe of Time" at NYMF 2016
Photo by K Nowosad of cast board for “A Scythe of Time” at NYMF 2016
I was very impressed with P.J. Griffith who plays Blackwood and Lesli Margherita in the role of Zenobia. Also sending big applause to the entire cast for their performances in this very unique show.

After a break, I headed to the Duke Theatre on 42nd Street which had the AC going full blast (bless you!). The Duke has very comfortable seating even for us long legged theater goers. At 5:00, I saw The Last Word which has a book, music, and lyrics by Brett Sullivan and additional lyrics by Ryan Cunningham. The story takes place in the 1970’s about a group of friends who need to get to a national Scrabble championship to win the prize in order to save a family restaurant. The storyline shows what they go through to get to the competition and what eventually happens at the competition and afterwards.

 Photo by K Nowosad of cast board for "The Last Word" at NYMF 2016
Photo by K Nowosad of cast board for “The Last Word” at NYMF 2016

Music for the show leans towards rock with group numbers and individual songs. The choreography was fairly basic but well rehearsed and it added to the fun of the performance. The acting was very good and I was pleased to see Felicia Finley playing Earlene with a western twang to the character. The lead, Nathan Lucrezio (Jay) played a very fine part along with his friend, Neil, played by Travis Kent. The story has some clever ideas in it and the music keeps it moving along very well.

‘Friend Art’ Looks at Friendship and Life

Pictured: Constantine Maroulis, Anabelle LeMieux, Aaron Costa Ganis and Zoe Chao; photo by Joan Marcus as shared on Second Stage Theatre Facebook page.
Pictured: Constantine Maroulis, Anabelle LeMieux, Aaron Costa Ganis and Zoe Chao; photo by Joan Marcus as shared on Second Stage Theatre Facebook page.
A play titled Friend Art finishes its run tomorrow at the 2econd Stage Theatre Uptown. Written by Sofia Alvarez and directed by Portia Krieger, it is a good play which is on the surface light-hearted but underneath it has some serious things to say.

The lightheartedness comes through when one of the characters, Lil, makes continued attempts to produce a solo performance artist piece.  The recitation is funny and it involves a stuffed snake which later serves a more “sensuous” role. Lil’s friends, Kevin, Molly, and Nate, are among the few who come to see her shows. They do it because she is a friend and since she is their friend, they go to support her hence the title of the show, Friend Art. The show continues with Kevin and Molly trying to plan their wedding and an impending move. However, at some point, Kevin decides to taste what it is like to be in the world of real art. He teams up with Lil to bring in a better quality to her show and hopefully to increase the size of the audience. This leaves Molly to develop a new relationship with Nate. Nate is the character who had been a one hit wonder in the record business years before. He made enough money that he was able to buy a nice loft in Brooklyn and not have to work. This frees him to pursue an aimless existence. He’s not really pleased with where he is at but he isn’t sure of where to go from there.

All of the situations that the four characters are involved in provide a reason for examination of a deeper situation past the light hearted look of the just the performance that Lil gives. In this case, that situation is all about moving into a new part of adulthood and taking on new responsibilities.  We also get a chance to reflect on the value that friendships hold in our lives and how they can be so vital to us at certain points, but then change to a new relationship as own on life situations changes.

Three of the characters in the show, Lil, Molly, and Kevin, are a part of the Millennial Generation and the fourth, Nate, would be on the cusp between the Millennials and Gen X.  So it should not be unexpected to see them grappling with life changing situations. The Millennial Generation is already proving themselves to be a fascinating group of people who are already influencing the arts, culture, and business. This play is timely in looking at their changing life situations.

The cast for this show includes Anabelle Lemieux as Lil, Zoe Chao as Molly, Aaron Costa Ganis as Kevin and Constantine Maroulis as Nate. Each character was well developed and leave few if any questions in the minds of the audience as to what they are about. Fine performances are seen from this group.

The show, which runs approximately 85 minutes, moves at a quick pace in spots but it allows character development in several pivotal points. It would have been nice to see an extension given to this show at the 2econd Stage Uptown Theater. But like the characters in the show it appears to be time to move on. Hopefully, it will surface again soon in some Off-Broadway location.