‘Bulldozer: The Ballad of Robert Moses’ a Contemporary Look at a Legend

Constantine Maroulis and Kacie Shiek in ‘Bulldozer: The Ballad of Robert Moses’

A new show opened last week at the Theatre at St. Clement’s called Bulldozer: The Ballad of Robert Moses. It is a small show with five actors and a four piece on-stage band. It has a contemporary feel to it that fits perfectly in Off-Broadway theater. This show brings a unique approach to what could be a humdrum subject: history. Instead, it has an interesting story line about the legendary Robert Moses, all new songs, and a cast who work the layers and levels of the show with passion and intensity that delivers a satisfying performance theater goers will appreciate.

Bulldozer: The Ballad of Robert Moses takes a look at a very historic and important figure in New York City history, Robert Moses. Karen Carpenter directs the show about the man whom some call the “master planner” of New York. Starting around the 1930’s, his approach to city planning and development was paramount in creating much of the structure we see in New York today. When people sit in their cars not moving because of gridlock, his name is one that comes to mind. Likewise, when people use Jones Beach or the park system, his name also comes up in more favorable terms.

Peter Galperin and Daniel Scot Kadin co-wrote the book for the show. They attempt to cover a lot of ground in 90 – 100 minutes. Dialog and music both contribute to that attempt. The show opens with a view of Robert Moses as an old, defeated man having a blanket put across his legs as he scowls and begins to recall his life. As he reflects back, the audience meets an idealistic young man who dreams of making things as good as they could be in New York City. He meets a woman working in a nightclub and shows his kindness to her as he speaks of seeing the higher ups in their seats in the club. His ambition is hinted at here. That woman, Vera, later becomes his mistress and a composite of women in his life.

Time moves on and Moses has become more ensconced in his position. He forms a relationship with another power broker of the day, Nelson Rockefeller. At first, he and Rockefeller seem to be in tune. However, as Moses’ work becomes his obsession, he no longer is interested in outside activities. His prejudices and biases become more known and are skillfully presented to the audience as he lets the Brooklyn Dodgers leave with a mention of “that Robinson.”

Wayne Wilcox (l) and Constantine Maroulis (r)

Holding true to the real story, Robert Moses takes control to the point where no project can be done without it going through him. For him, a project is only something to be accomplished without concern for the people he “relocates” thus decimating neighborhoods such as what happened when the Cross Bronx Expressway was built.

The final showdown occurs with his plans to build a highway through lower Manhattan and bulldoze through Greenwich Village. At this point, Jane Jacobs, who is being secretly backed by Nelson Rockefeller, leads a crusade that successfully ends the plans. It also signals the end of Robert Moses’ career.

Ryan Knowles, Molly Pope, and Wayne Wilcox

Writer/composer Peter Galperin brings a fresh energy to the music by using a variety of styles, but most prominently, rock. There are six Street Musician songs designed to do the job of a storyteller. Although they are well done, their folk song approach just doesn’t meld in well enough with the rock in the show.  But the songs advance the plot well. They also allow more of the mood of the characters to shine through. Several highlights include “You and I” which is a very clever duet between Moses and Rockefeller as they fly over the newly constructed Palisades Park. Their optimism is evident and it signals the beginning of a strong alliance between the two. But then, a tense exchange between Moses and Rockefeller happens later which is not pleasant when they exchange barbs in “You’ll Do It My Way.” Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses square off in “Don’t You Dare “ with strong voices arguing it out and the activist, Jacobs, asserting that she can hold her own. The song “Straight Towards the Sun” opens and closes the show and is absolutely beautiful. Moses sums up his life’s work as he sings, “I couldn’t see a thing, because the light was in my eyes, I was heading straight towards the sun.” It ends the show on a very poignant note.

A strong cast includes Constantine Maroulis as Robert Moses. His fine acting lets the audience see Robert Moses transform from an old, embittered man in the beginning to a young idealist one and then age him back to that starting point. His portrayal shows the distance Moses put between himself and others. One of the highlights of Mr. Maroulis’ performance is his strong singing voice which soars as he romances Vera Martin and then it explodes in anger against Nelson Rockefeller.

Molly Pope as Jane Jacobs does not let her audience forget that she became a power to be reckoned with. She develops the character in such a manner that when we learn of her victory over the powerful Robert Moses, the feeling is one of gratitude towards Jane. Her powerful singing voice more than holds the place of woman in what was then, more of a man’s world.

Wayne Wilcox plays Nelson Rockefeller. His character is serious and thoughtfully developed and acted out. But when his ambition to run for higher office surfaces, there is no question that he will succeed. Kacie Sheik plays Vera Martin, the composite character. She is charming to watch. Vera develops the the tenacity to break away from Moses’ control and become her own person. Randy Knowles does several roles including the Street Musician and reporters who heckle Moses. His singing is enjoyable to listen to and his heckling is first rate.

This is a very enjoyable show to see. It is especially recommended for people who have an interest in the history of New York City or city planning.

Additional Information:

Bulldozer: The Ballad of Robert Moses plays now through January 7, 2018 at the Theater at St. Clements, 423 W. 46th Street, NYC.

The show runs approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.

Tickets are available at the theater’s box or online at the show’s official website at bulldozerthemusical.com.

‘Bulldozer: The Ballad of Robert Moses’ Opening Night

The new Off-Broadway show Bulldozer: The Ballad of Robert Moses opened last night. The show from Bulldozer Partners in association with Aaron Grant Theatrical is a rock musical about Robert Moses. Moses was one of the most polarizing figures in New York political history and was probably the most powerful unelected official ever in the United States. As a “Master Builder,” his projects included Jones Beach, the Verrazano Bridge, the renovation of Central Park in the 1930s, Lincoln Center, all of New York City’s public swimming pools, and the Westside Highway just to name a few.

Bulldozer: The Ballad of Robert Moses features music and lyrics by Peter Galperin who also wrote the show’s book with Daniel Scot Kadin. Karen Carpenter directs the show which features original songs played by a four-piece rock band.

The cast features Constantine Maroulis, as Robert Moses. Wayne Wilcox plays Nelson Rockefeller. Molly Pope plays activist Jane Jacobs. Ryan Knowles plays the Street Musician. Kacie Sheik plays Vera Martin.

Here are some photos taken after the Opening Night performance. Bulldozer: The Ballad of Robert Moses runs at the Theatre at St. Clement’s, 423 West 46th Street, where it will play through Jan. 7, 2018.

All photos are by Lianne Schoenwiesner, Spotlights Photography.

Cast of ‘Bulldozer: The Ballad of Robert Moses’ (left to right) Wayne Wilcox, Molly Pope, Constantine Maroulis, Kacie Sheik, and Wayne Wilcox
(Left to right) Constantine Maorulis, Karen Carpenter, Peter Galperin, Ryan Knowles, Kacie Sheik, Molly Pope, Wayne Wilcox
Aaron Grant Theatrical joined by Constantine Maroulis, Peter Galperin, and Karen Carpenter
Constantine Maroulis
Wayne Wilcox
Molly Pope
Kacie Sheik
Ryan Knowles

Immersive Theater Makes ‘Counting Sheep’ Riveting and Memorable

the Lemon Bucket Orkestra and some members of the cast of ‘Counting Sheep.’ Photo Credit – Mati Bardosh Gelman

For those who believe that theater can a difference with the way people look at world issues, go see the U.S. premiere of the musical Counting Sheep. If you are not convinced that it can make a difference, then take a chance and go to see it now through its final performance on Sunday, December 17, 2017.  You will come out of that show with a whole new outlook on the power of live theater.

This show will rock you to your core.

Counting Sheep is an immersive theatrical experience which brings audiences inside the heart of the 2013 – 2014 Ukrainian revolution on Maidan Square. Public protests began in Independence Square in Kiev and eventually led to the resignation of Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych deemed to be embroiled in corruption. Fighting continues to this day. Hundreds of people have been killed.

Counting Sheep is a personal retelling of the uprising that succeeded in toppling the Ukrainian government. Created by Mark Marczyk and Marichka Marczyk, this production is inspired by their own experiences right on the streets during the protests.  Direction is by Kevin Newbury.  The show features a guerrilla folk opera band from Toronto, the Lemon Bucket Orkestra. The songs are sung entirely in traditional Ukrainian polyphony. Even if you don’t speak the language, you will get what is being said by the intense emotion from the performers.

Shows are at 3LD Theater, 80 Greenwich Street, downtown in New York City.  This enormous space provides three walls of wide and tall screens on which actual video footage taken during the protests are shown. There is also a roving videographer who films events taking place during the show and those project as well. Audiences are encouraged to document the revolution so the use of cameras is allowed.

Photo by Karen Nowosad

Tickets are available in two zones: immersive and viewing only.  The immersive ticket includes some food and inclusion in the action of the show. Viewing patrons sit on wooden bleachers along the sides. It is important to note that immersion in this show appears to be very safe and well done. The cast was very gentle working with the crowd and very kind to everyone.  My original plan was to just view since I was writing about the show. But suddenly, I felt compelled to join in and I was readily accepted.

The show begins with a peaceful meal taking place and moves to the beginnings of crowd action in the square. Eventually fighting breaks out and those who elect to be immersive may find themselves helping the cast members to fortify the barricades, throw bricks (not real ones), and even dance at someone’s wedding. The action is nonstop; no intermission. The ending will get you thinking and wondering what a price has been paid.

Photo by Karen Nowosad

The wonderful cast of Counting Sheep features Mark Marczyk, Marichka Marczyk, Dmytro Nechepurenko, Eli Camilo, Jaash Singh, Michael Louis Johnson, Nathan Dell-Vandenberg, Oskar Lambarri, Tamar Ilana, Stephania Woloshyn and Volodymyr Bedzvin.

Performances of Counting Sheep are on Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8PM with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 3PM.

This show is so well done it has to get a future run in New York City. Get to see it while it is still downtown because this could be the next Great Comet theatrical experience. And yes, they, too, serve pierogi that are very good!

Don’t miss it.

To see other photos I took at the performance, visit the Facebook page for Let’s Go to the Theater.