Prince Music Theater presents the world premiere of "3hree", an evening of three one-act musicals created especially for the Prince in order to introduce us to talented new creators of musical theater. However, there is one exception, Mr. Hal Prince, who directs one of the pieces, is not new to the theater. Before I talk specifically about each one, let it suffice to say that all three mini-musicals are splendidly mounted with colorful, inventive sets, costumes and choreography and that the cast is enormously talented as each member assumes diverse roles throughout the evening. There is a three minute pause between each piece while the actors change costumes, and stage crew members move scenery in full view of the audience. The invisible orchestra tunes up for the next overture, as the cyclorama is raised to reveal the back wall of the theater and we, the delighted audience, are allowed to watch the process of transmogrification.
The pieces are:
The first and most ambitious piece, "The Mice", is a bittersweet tale based on a short story set in Chippewa Falls, Minnesota where the harsh winter has driven the town's rodent population inside. The town's citizens seek the help of Alan Cedar the local exterminator. But it appears that the unhappily married Alan is more interested in having an illicit affair with the married Virga Vay. And so, Virga has been planting rodents in people's houses for months. When they call the exterminator and leave for a few hours, Virga flies into Alan's waiting arms. It is a sardonic view of love and marriage. Though the music is lively and pleasing with a nostalgic air about it, many of the numbers tended to sound alike. And at times during the group numbers ("Mice!" and "That's All I Need") I couldn't catch all of the lyrics, as these songs sped by at a very frenetic pace. A bit more breathing space for the actors and the audience would have served better. But the last number, "If You'd Be Mine" is particularly wonderful (especially the choreography) where the lovers dance in celebration of their freedom as they leave their dreary lives (and their bodies) behind.
"Lavender Girl", by the (not so new to theatre insiders) composer, John Bucchino has a lovely feel to it. Unlike "Mice!" whose era I was hard pressed to determine, it is obvious that Lavender Girl takes place in the Jazz Age in the South. Colin, a young college student, encounters a mysterious girl dressed in purple who changes his life forever. Though this is the shortest and the least developed of the pieces, it sets out to cast a spell and that it does. The piece is bookended by Colin who speaks to the moon about his Lavender Girl in simple but poetic language. And though the plot twist was predictable to this viewer, it was still strangely arresting and moving.
Directed by Hal Prince, The Flight of the Lawnchair Man, turned out to be the most satisfying piece of the evening. Ironically it has the slimmest of plots. Jerry Gorman, a guy from Newark has always wanted to fly. Encouraged by his well meaning girlfriend, Gracie, he attaches 4,000 helium filled balloons to a Walmart Lawnchair. Gracie packs him a couple of his favorite sandwiches and he's off. (The stage effect used to make it appear that Jerry is flying is adorably whimsical.) The high point of the play is when Jerry has trouble deciding whether or not he should come down and is visited by such luminaries of flight as: Leonardo Da Vinci (complete with wings), Jimmy Stewart as Charles Lindbergh (complete with The Spirit of St. Louis as part of his costume), and Amelia Earhart (wearing a white plane that glows in the dark). Persuaded by Gracie to "Keep flying, Jerry. Keep flying,." we leave the theater optimistic and smiling. The score by Robert Lindsay Nassif is the most diverse and musically meatiest of the evening. There are tunes you can really sink your teeth into such as: "The Air is Free" and "Never Finish Before You are Finished"
And Mr. Prince, the master of showmanship, knows how to exploit a theatrically flamboyant idea to great audience enthusiasm. In other words, when a chorus line of aviators dressed in red suits dons wings and dances, we just eat it up and beg for more. It's musical comedy at its most delicious. All in all the evening turns out to be surprisingly delightful and suitable for all ages. Especially for those of us who never grew up and still think we can fly.
For tickets call: (215)569-9700 or log on to Prince Music Theater's Website at:
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