By Don Church & Tony Schillaci, Critics On The Aisle™
Give the public what it wants and it’ll show up in droves. That’s what Norwich’s Spirit of Broadway Theater must have had in mind when it decided to present “Desperate Measures.”
The team behind this musical comedy is Tony-nominee book and lyric writer Peter Kellogg and the celebrated movie, TV and theater composer/conductor/arranger, David Friedman. This American west comedy was inspired by Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure,”
According to David, the show has an “upbeat, hummable country and western score.” He says it has “guitar-based ballads, up tempo hoe-down type of songs and comedy songs. The score is both lighthearted and emotional.” As in any good musical, a song’s words are supposed to explore character, help move along the plot and the music should reflect the emotion of the moment.
Peter says “Desperate Measures” is “a musical comedy with the emphasis squarely on comedy. There is a healthy dollop of romance, and a dash of pointed contemporary political relevance, but the main purpose of the piece is to make people laugh and have a good time.” He continues, “The dialog is also, I hesitate to mention, in rhymed couplets ala Moliere. If that sounds daunting, it’s actually quite the opposite. The language is very accessible and the verse adds to the humor of the piece, while giving a little nod to Shakespeare.”
With those defining words from the authors, here’s a sneak preview of the plot: Johnny Blood is about to hang for murdering a man, possibly in self-defense. He did it for the love of a saloon girl, Bella Rose. Johnny now finds himself sharing a cell with a drunken priest who’s lost his faith thanks to Nietzsche. The Sheriff seeks out Johnny’s only living relative, his sister Susanna, who is a convent novice and about to take her final vows. Urging her to “practice what you pray,” the Sheriff convinces her to plead for Johnny’s life with the Governor. The Governor is rotten to the core, and suggests that the only way he’ll pardon Johnny is if Susanna sleeps with him. Needless to say, complications ensue and that’s just the first act!
The production team features set design by Mike Billings, lighting design by Greg Solomon, stage management by Sean Duggan, prop design by Heather Haycock, musical direction by Daniel Brandl, choreography by Christine Snitken-Bouley, costume design and direction by Brett A. Bernardini.
The cast features 2012 Connecticut High School Musical Theater Award Outstanding Actor nominee, Michael Sullivan (Johnny Blood), Shauna Goodgold (Bella Rose), Corrado Alicata (Sherriff Green), Aline O’Connor (Susanna), Keith Johnson (Governor), John Marion (Father Morse), and Jeanette Kearney, Kailia Galinet and Calvin Gee (ensemble).
The two talented and accomplished Broadway and Hollywood creators of “Desperate Measures,” are: Peter Kellogg (book and lyrics) who has two Tony nominations for book and lyrics to a musical of “Anna Karenina” (composer Dan Levine), which will tour in Japan again next year. With David Friedman, Peter created “Chasing Nicolette,” based on the French romance, Aucassin and Nicolette, produced at Westport Playhouse, Prince Music Theatre and Village Theatre;”Stunt Girl,” based on the life of Nellie Bly, which premiered at Village Theatre; “Desperate Measures,” winner of Best Book at the New York Musical Festival Awards; and “Lincoln in Love” (readings at Ford’s Theatre, Goodspeed Musicals and the Village.)
The other half of this gifted team is David Friedman (music) His credits in the theatre are: “Chasing Nicolette,” “Stunt Girl,” “Lincoln in Love,” “Saving Aimee,” “King Island Christmas” (over 40 productions worldwide), “Listen to My Heart Revue,” opening around the country, Europe and Australia. His songs include: “We Can Be Kind,” “Help is on the Way,” “We Live on Borrowed Time,” “Rich, Famous & Powerful,” and hundreds more.
David’s prolific and successful film career, so far, includes being a conductor/vocal arranger on Disney’s “Beauty & The Beast,” “Aladdin,” “Pocahontas,” and “Hunchback.” His credits as a composer include: “Trick,” “Lizzie McGuire” (double platinum), and the “Bambi” sequel.
His songwriting hits have been recorded by Diana Ross (quadruple platinum), Barry Manilow, Laura Branigan, and many others. Currently David appears monthly on NBC’s “Today” show for which he writes songs for the “Everyone Has a Story” series.
Brett Bernardini is Founding Artistic Director/CEO of the Spirit of Broadway Theater. He has directed more than 200 productions in his career including a new musical, “A Hundred Years Into The Heart” as part of The New York Music Theater Festival. Brett was named Distinguished Arts Advocate by the Connecticut Commission on the Arts and received a Commendation for Achievement in the Arts from the State of Connecticut’s General Assembly. His passion is producing and directing the most promising new musicals, and he sometimes travels far afield to find just the right shows to do in Connecticut.
“Sometimes, it is about who you know!” said Brett, “I had the great good fortune to meet Peter at an event for The National Alliance For Musical Theater, of which The Spirit of Broadway Theater is a member. Over the following months, Peter and I began a conversation regarding producing one of his works at SBT. I am thrilled and delighted that we are able to produce this joyful and engaging new musical by these two remarkably talents writers!” said Bernardini. “Had we not met that day, it is likely that this show would have never found its way to our stage!”
If you go…WHAT & WHEN:
June 27 – July 29, 2012
The Spirit of Broadway Theater
24 Chestnut Street, Norwich, Conn
Range from $20.-45.
For exact ticket price contact the theater