Streamlined to a single act, Roundabout’s new off-Broadway production of 1970s Broadway musical The Robber Bridegroom is 90 effervescent minutes of unabashed fun.
Along with his ingenious work on 2012 Broadway success Peter and the Starcatcher, director Alex Timbers proves himself the go-to director for wildly creative, highly energetic theatre. Sight and sound gags abound, and although their execution is entertaining in its own right, all of the effects are there to serve and propel the story. Choreographer Connor Gallagher adds to the madcap action, but this is clearly Timbers’ show.
The tone is set in advance with music and lights giving a festive feel in the auditorium before curtain. Soon, a troupe of actors and musicians bound down the aisle ready to tell their story.
Playing various banjos, mandolins and guitars, the merry band of five musicians remains in sight for the whole show, impressively playing the whole score with little or no sheet music. The energy and involvement of the musicians is significant contributor to the success of the bluegrass score.
While the nine actors work as an integrated ensemble, Steven Pasquale, who broke countless hearts on Broadway two years ago, is the star attraction and he does not disappoint. Pasquale deftly conveys the “two faces” of brigand Jamie Lockhart, balancing the menacing side of the Robin Hood-like robber with his far more romantic bridegroom side. Pasquale not only sings with a sooth, smoldering tone, but also has an effortless delivery that only further enhance his magnetic charisma.
With the original fairy tale setting updated to Mississippi, the cast plays a range of southern fried characters which are, mostly, as ugly as they are stupid. The central angle of the story is the dual romances between the same pair. Lockhart meets fair Rosamund in the woods and they fall in love. Meanwhile in her wealthy father’s home, they each disguise themselves as they pine, in ignorance, for their sexier counterparts in the woods.
Ahna O’Reilly is as plucky as she is pretty as Rosamund scoring laughs with the contrast between the character’s hearty passion and her guileless naiveté.
In a performance that would have exhausted Nathan Lane in his prime, Leslie Kritzer chews up and spits out all the scenery in sight as her bloodthirsty character Salome pursues her bloodthirsty self-interests with relentless, malevolent glee.
The racy content and devilish pace make The Robber Bridegroom an all too rare adult treat.
The Robber Bridegroom was reviewed 3pm Sunday 27 March 2016 at Laura Pels Theatre, NY where it plays until 29 May 2016.
Photos: Joan Marcus