‘DARLING GRENADINE’- A RUBY RED GEM!”
We know early on that Harry, the charismatic and talented central character of Daniel Zaitchik’s fascinating new musical, “Darling Grenadine,” which opened at the Marriott Theatre Sunday, lives well in an idyllic Manhattan neighborhood with his rescue dog, Paul. His good fortune and security results from writing a jingle that has allowed him the kind of financial freedom few artists achieve at such an early age. And, for a while anyway, life looks good.
Heath Saunders, who rocked Chicago audiences in the title role in “Jesus Christ Superstar” at Lyric Opera last season, gives a masterful performance as Harry, the likable, happy-go-lucky songwriter whose life is spiraling out of control as a result of his self-destructive behavior, which is setting him emotionally adrift. The affections of an up-and-coming Broadway performer—a stunning turn for the explosively talented Katherine Thomas—become his single-minded obsession and the resulting union thrusts the two into a tender and tumultuous backstage musical love story that explores the complex and difficult aspects of addiction, dependence and denial.
Director and choreographer Aaron Thielen has assembled an all-star creative team for this emerging work. Add a splendidly versatile company that elevates every nuance of the lush story and score—Zaitchik wrote the book, music and lyrics—under the brilliant musical direction of Ryan T. Nelson and conductor Patti Garwood, and place it within the sleek, linear Jeffrey D. Kmiec urban set design, and “Darling Grenadine” emerges as a big, beautiful hit!
The rich and well-defined characters in Harry’s orbit include Paul–a role in which Nick Cosgrove shines—whose family took in Harry and who Paul has treated like an older brother throughout his life. Interesting characters all played by the superbly versatile duo of Allison Sill and Brandon Springman fill Harry’s New York City neighborhood. Ever-present is Harry’s canine companion—also named “Paul”—who is a marionette ingeniously animated by Phillip Huber and given voice by musician Mike Nappi.
From the whimsical, syncopated opening and Saunders’ rousing “Swell” to the breathtaking performance of “Paradise” by Katherine Thomas in the show-within-the-show, Zaitchik creates a dynamic vibe that grabs you and does not let go. These are familiar characters that we could be related to or who perhaps serve as reflections of ourselves. The strikingly real situations lead naturally in and out of musical transitions that engage us in character discovery—“Every Time a Waitress Calls Me Honey” and “No Good For Me”— and all ranges of emotion—the high energy of “Party Hat” and the moving “Say Something, Paul.”
The size and scope of Marriott’s in-the-round configuration is expanded exponentially with Anthony Churchill’s inspired use of 81 individual panels, which serve as a virtual canopy to effectively transform from the New York City streets and skyline to the interior of Harry’s apartment and Standard’s Bar, the sleepy nightspot owned by Paul. All of the exceptional technical aspects—Teresa Ham’s costumes, lighting by Jesse Klug, sound design by Robert E. Gilmarton and Sally Zack’s properties (her 44th production at Marriott)—allow this ruby-red gem—already destined for New York’s Roundabout Theatre next year—to shimmer and shine.
through August 18th
Ten Marriott Drive
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