‘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

North Shore Music Theatre’s ‘Evita’ is a Fabulous Show

Briana Carlson-Goodman (Eva) and John Cudia (Peron) in “Evita” at North Shore Music Theatre. Photos©Paul Lyden

An opportunity for another road trip to Massachusetts presented itself this week, so into the car I went. This time the destination was North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, MA to see Evita. Everything about this show is fabulous: the staging, the cast, and the orchestra. I saw the original Evita on Broadway years ago. The music is by Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber and lyrics by Tim Rice. I also saw the movie several times. This show uses components from those versions and also the revivals that have played the last few years. It is Broadway quality all the way.

Evita is the story of the rise to power of Argentina’s First Lady Eva Peron. It traces her beginnings as a child raised in a poor, working class family. It then shows the steps she took to get to power, her charity work, and finally her early death at 33 years old. The story is completely told through songs and musical dialog.

“Evita” at North Shore Music Theatre. Photos©Paul Lyden

This is a theater in the round and the challenges of delivering a performance that all audience members can see is handled very well. There are screens for projections scattered throughout the theater and even an upper level where a side stage comes to life. The energy level is high as the cast moves up and down the aisles to go on and off the center stage. A platform square in the middle of the main stage allows some props and performers to enter and exit from a level below.

There are many wonderful and very enjoyable moments in this show. It would be impossible to document them all here in this posting. Two that really stood out for me were “Good Night and Thank You” when Eva is working her way through a series of lovers. As her time with them finishes, they walk to an iron gilded door that Che opens to let them out as he sings about their time being done. As they stand on the other side of what represents Eva’s room, they try to figure out what has happened to them as Eva moves onto her next prey. Another standout moment is the final funeral scene, “Montage,” where actual footage of her funeral is run on screens throughout the theater and the full cast is onstage in homage to their fallen Evita.

“Evita” at North Shore Music Theatre. Photos©Paul Lyden

Constantine Maroulis gives a brilliant performance as the narrator, Che. He moves from the center stage to sections of the audience speaking to people as he does. At one point, he is a waiter in a nightclub and he walks up an aisle and acts like he is taking drink orders and handing them out. At times, he stands aside blending in as one of the audience. This lets everyone feel a part of the action taking place. He sings in a strong rock tenor voice. Some say that Che represents the conscience of the people. Along that line of thought, Mr. Maroulis does a fine job of showing some very stirring emotions as he points out the absurdity of what has taken place and the enormous disappointment for what could have been.

Briana Carlson-Goodman plays Eva. Her performance is impressive, stirring, and wonderful to watch. Her Eva has a very desirable quality to her. This vibe makes the admiration from the people for her very believable. Ms. Carlson-Goodman’s Eva is strong as she moves her way into Buenos Aires life. But then she is very vulnerable as her health fails her and she prepares to die. The scenes between her and and Juan Peron are very powerful, and at times, a bit frightening as she weaves her influence around this man. Her voice was absolutely beautiful especially in “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.”

John Cudia plays Juan Peron, an ambitious military officer who works his way up the ladder to eventually become President of Argentina. Would it have happened without Eva at his side? Hard to tell because she tells him “I’d Be Surprising Good for You.” He believes and they set out to become the new super couple leading the country. Mr. Cudia has a strong presence about him and his vocals are powerful. He also masterfully handles the side of Peron that in a sense falls victim to his wife’s desires and needs.

Nick Adams gives a wonderful performance as Magaldi, the Argentinian tango singer who meets 15 year old Eva Duarte. His voice soars as he sings “On this Night of a Thousand Stars.” If the real person sang like that, then it is no wonder that Eva was enchanted with him. Well at least for a short time. Just enough time to use him to get to her next stop in life.  Julia Estrada sings a lovely version of “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.” Her time as Peron’s mistress ends as Eva moves in and puts her out to the street.

The members of the ensemble are exciting to watch in multi-roles and scenes. They are a talented group as they dance, sing, and act in a number of scenes.

The entire production is directed by Nick Kenkel who also choreographed the show.

The North Shore Music Theatre

I am continually amazed by the many accomplishments of regional theater. So much devotion to the art goes into their work.  I was fortunate to be able to sit in on a talk-back after the performance. We learned that the rehearsal time for the show was just short of two weeks. However, planning and designing for it began a long time before that. Producing Artistic Director Kevin Hill said that they are already doing work on shows that will run in 2018. After hearing that, I could understand how much thought and care goes into each show.

A quick survey before the show began showed the majority of the audience were season subscribers. I had conversation with people I sat next to and they are regulars and have been for years. Their enthusiasm for the show was contagious. Every person who worked for the North Shore Music Theatre that I came in contact with was very pleasant. The level of customer service is very high.

Backstage Bistro

The Backstage Bistro is a restaurant theater goers and the general public can go to for a meal or a drink before the show. It adjoins the parking lot and the stairway is close to the entrance by the Box Office.  They have buffets set up for the meals which makes it very convenient to eat and be in time for the curtain. There is also a bar for those who just want a drink. The food is very good with a nice variety of selections.