For the Last Time.
There is a sublime jazz band center stage of the musical “For the Last Time,” playing on Theater Row, 42nd Street in Manhattan. I would not say this is the only reason to see the seductive new jazz musical by veteran (“Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues” – 1960) jazz singer Nancy Harrow (music and lyrics) and Will Pomerantz (director and co-writer); I do say see it for the band, the cast, the music, the whole shebang.
“For the Last Time” is based on the novel “The Marble Faun” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Nicely transported to 1950’s New Orleans and narrated by the Overseer (slyly wonderful Reggie D. White), “For the Last Time” combines morality tale, love story, and the challenges of friendship.
Miriam (Brittany Campbell) believes she has escaped Chicago and her past to reinvent herself as an artist in New Orleans. Hilda (Anita Welch), her cousin, has come for a visit but ostensibly to check on Miriam; what with all that business with her father, naturally, Hilda was worried.
She needn’t have been. Miriam has taken up with Kenyon (Carl Clemons-Hopkins), showman and new night club owner. They are almost a pair, until the three, accompanied by the nightclub’s premier trumpeter, Donatello (Britton Smith) visit an art museum. Miriam is struck by the resemblance between Donatello and a marble faun, her favorite sculpture. She asks to paint him. And like Shakespeare’s disoriented lovers in “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” these four wooers switch partners. The past intrudes. All hell breaks loose. And the music takes you on its wings through the story, never overriding accompanying in the best possible way. Director Cody Owens Stine, and Associate Music Director and fantastic trumpeter Alphonso Horne (who also plays for “trumpeter” Donatello) deftly deliver Harrow’s music.
The four central characters – Miriam, Hilda, Kenyon, Donatello – are uniquely individual and brilliantly cast; Campbell, Welch, Clemons-Hopkins, and Smith blend so beautifully together, this is the pinnacle of what ensemble acting and singing should be. I can’t say enough about this cast; they are as sublime as the jazz band that backs them.
To say more would be a sin, so to speak. Harrow and Pomerantz have created a dynamic show that deserves a bigger space to let loose on; meaning, a bigger stage (such as the off-Broadway Laura Pels theater on West 46th Street would do nicely). Like this musical, a willing producer would be unexpectedly wonderful. Let the good times roll!