By JENNIFER FARRAR
NEW YORK - A good musical keeps you enthralled and stays with you afterward, as you find yourself humming refrains of new songs.
"The Landing", a lovely, quirky new musical theater work by John Kander and Greg Pierce, has enchanting moments and leaves you wanting more, in the Vineyard Theatre's world-premiere production that opened Wednesday night.
Rising playwright Pierce ("Slowgirl") wrote the book and lyrics and co-wrote the story with Kander, who's providing the music for his first full new theater collaboration with another writer since the 2004 passing of long-time partner Fred Ebb. Iconic Kander and Ebb musicals include "Cabaret," "Chicago" and "Kiss of the Spider Woman".
With assured direction by Walter Bobbie ("Venus in Fur", "Chicago"), playful choreography by Josh Rhodes ("Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella") and a sparkling cast led by Tony and Emmy Award-winner David Hyde Pierce, "The Landing" encompasses three imaginative one-acts examining longing, love and regret.
Hyde Pierce expressively narrates, "Andra," in which kindly carpenter Ben, (a warm, charismatic Paul Anthony Stewart), uses his love of constellation mythology to expand the worldview of lonely, math-obsessed, 11-year-old Noah (sensitively portrayed by Frankie Seratch). Stewart and Seratch sing with swashbuckling bravura about the adventures of Pegasus and Perseus and the rescue of kidnapped Andromeda/Andra, who forever watches over them protectively.
"Brick" provides a gleeful, slightly jarring descent into surreal farce. Julia Murney brims with cheerful loopiness as a bored housewife smitten with old gangster movies on TV until a cursed brick takes her to the dark side. Zoot-suited zaniness ensues, as vintage gangster slang is cleverly rhymed in staccato dialogue and lyrics punctuated with "bang-bang-bang!" As the demonic mobster-turned-brick, Hyde Pierce radiates a comical menace.
The final segment, "The Landing," returns to reality, sort of. A not-so-young, gay Manhattan couple (Stewart and Hyde Pierce, both affecting), realizing a long-held dream, fussily welcome their new foster son. A sweetly grave Seratch portrays Collin, an oddly mature 12-year-old. His true purpose is foreshadowed when the two new dads poignantly duet about their fatherhood while Collin sings a memorable number that begins, "There's a big boat with a long rope/and the tide has turned..."
Four musicians, led by conductor Paul Masse on piano, provide a rich, haunting musical undertone. Let's hope Kander and Pierce have lots more like this ahead.
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