Photo by Don Kellogg

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Kiss of the Spider Woman

Choreography.  Nice work if you can get it.  Even nicer if you are Geoffrey Doig-Marx and your brush has been selected to paint the dance-canvas on stage for the Department of Theatre and Dance and John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University.  Even nicer if you have such a talented bunch of colorful, budding young singers, actors, and dancers as your medium to work with.


John Kander and Fred Ebb's Spider Woman is not an easy show.  It's challenging in both the technical sense as well as the subject matter itself.   Based on a cursory review of the program, difficulty is not a hindrance to the school's program either.  Bravo to the school for stretching the young minds and challenging them both physically and theatrically.  I mean, after all, the last thing New York (or any other city) needs is another mediocre crop of theater-grads showing up at Broadway auditions with a repertoire of Oklahoma, Phantom, and Guys and Dolls firmly under their belts.  Clearly this is not the case at Montclair.  Recent productions a the University include Sweeney Todd, A Man of No Importance, Crazy for You, and Sideshow.

Spider Woman may not immediately pop into your mind as an entertaining Saturday evening.  After all, it's a musical about political prisoners, torture, human rights, and homosexuality.  It's the story of two very different men who find themselves imprisoned together - one a staunch idealist, the other a technicolor dreamer.  There's little hope, and much pain.  

Fear not, however!  You'll be in for a rare musical treat.   Lee Cohen (one of two cast in the role) turns in a dark, brooding, yet tender Valentin and Corey John Hafner (one of two cast in the role) turns in an insightful, poetic, and brave portrayal of Molina.  And if you're choreographer, Mr Doig-Marx, you had a bevy of talented dancers to unleash on multiple occasions around the multi-legged, eerie (and flown-in!) spider woman herself, Victoria Meade - and then again a few times just because they were so good.  

I don't often venture out of the city to see theatre - so when I do, I'm pleased to report back good news - that due in large part to the talents of Mr. Doig-Marx and director, Clay James, indeed, theatre is alive and well - way out there - even in suburban New Jersey!

Kudos to the many programs and departments at Montclair State University for pushing the envelope and producing what appears to be a bumper-crop of talent that most surely will end up on my side of the Hudson very shortly!