NY Theater Review by Paulanne Simmons
The “this” in the new musical, This Will All Be Yours, by Laura Pedersen (book) and Charles Bloom (music and lyrics) is the farm Adam Price (the often charming Josh Powell) lives and works on, which he would like to leave to his three children, Glen (Matt Farcher), Kelly (Jenny Rose Baker) and Scott (Daniel Rowan).
The trouble is the year is 1979 and the place is western New York, where, according to the playwright, “farming was becoming increasingly mechanized” and “required big outlays for expensive equipment,” while “large supermarket chains had found it advantageous to import produce from other parts of the country or even Central or South America.”
All this leads to the obvious questions: why would anyone want to give his children a farm, and why would any sane child want to accept such a gift? With the help of director Ludovica Villar-Hauser and a cast struggling against overwhelming odds, the musical tries to make its case for the value of farming. In the end, it only charts the inevitable, as one child after another exits the fold. It’s a bit like what happens to Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, without the Tsar and klezmer music.
At 80 minutes, with an overture and eight songs (one of which is a reprise), the show could do with a good deal of development after it leaves the Midtown International Theatre Festival. This should include making the characters something more than symbols for the playwright’s lament. For instance, it might be nice to see the Prices actually working on their farm (feeding the animals or plowing or doing whatever farmers do) instead of just singing about it.
The most interesting and likable character, in fact, is the villain, Jackson Webb (Trevor St. John-Gilbert), who very wisely keeps trying to get Adam to sell the farm to various investors who want to to turn it into commercial property. He also has the best song, “Progress,” in which he tries to convince the Prices to move into the 20th century. Most of the other songs keep extolling the dubious virtues of tilling the soil: “A Love of the Land,” “Leaving the Farm,” “This Will All Be Yours.”
The theater on West 36 street, where the musical is staged, is quite small. Villar-Hauser compensates for this by placing the band on the stage and having characters frequently make their entrances from the aisle separating the seats in the house. This drawing together of audience and actors works well in an intimate environment.
There’s much good will that went into This Will All Be Yours. And it makes for a pleasant, if predictable theatrical experience.
*Photos: John Quility
This Will All Be Yours, at TBG (The Barrow Group), 312 West 36 Street, 3rd floor, through August 7. http://www.midtownfestival.org.