by Adam Cohen
Surrounded by cast members from his most recent Broadway production, The Prom multi-hyphenate (actor, singer, writer, composer, dancer, conductor), Josh Franklin and friends, held court on August 18 at The Green Room 42. The evening was an opportunity for Josh and his extremely talented pals to perform songs from three musicals he’s composed for the stage. Performers rendered songs from Royal Blood, a musical comedy about vampires and politics in 18th century France; The Consoling Mechanism, the story of a girl struggling with the reality of her new life in a wheelchair and Jack: A Moral Musical Tale – a poignant story concerning bullying.
Talent was abundant both in singers and composers in these distinct musicals which offered a wide range of talent the opportunity to shine…including a duo as a tap dancing horse.
The evening opened with the cast of Jack: A Moral Musical Tale. It follows Jack, a young bully, who we find out is acting out because if some dysfunction in his family life. In a dream he is visited by the ‘Jacks’ from the tales we all know – Jack Horner, Jack Sprat, Jack be Nimble, Jack & Jill, Jack Frost, and of course a beanstalk with a Giant. Brian Sears (Book of Mormon) delivered a zippy performance at “Jack of All Trades” leaning into the song’s wit with panache.
Lucia Spina (Kinky Boots) soared with “Not Cool to Be Cold” giving goose bumps with her sultry principal. Alison Luff (Waitress) was absolutely wonderful as Jack’s mom, offering a plaintive, haunting solo urging his son to act well, wishing him love and the ability to change, without wasting a moment.
Jack: A Moral Musical Tale will be performed in an array of cities. The show, armed with witty songs and charm, tackles bullying and teen suicide. The production is fostering a curriculum aimed at opening conversations around depression and the social factors facing teens. I know I’ll be mentioning the show to the middle school theater department in my local school.
For a change of pace, Royal Blood focuses on the misunderstanding of a real-life rabies outbreak in Serbia which was confused for vampirism. This production has a number (“Precipe”) featuring the vain-glorius King Louis XV of France (Brian Sears). And a cute number about the Borde family playing off boredom, breaking the mold, and visioning their lives as getting a lift by emigrating. It was well-rendered by Jaron Barney (Book of Mormon tour), Bronwyn Tarboton (Papermill’s Beauty & The Beast), and Kaylin Hedges (Annie at the Hollywood Bowl).
Christopher Siebert (The Prom) offered a playful turn as a vampire-believing scientist in “Vampires are Real.” And this section ended with Morgan Reilly wowing the crowd with “Lady” a fierce number.
The evening concluded with several numbers from The Consoling Mechanism. This musical concerns itself with the impact of technology on a family. After a self-driving car accident kills the inventor’s wife and paralyzes his daughter, the survivors must comfort themselves and continue their lives. The first song presented “Weightless” led by Bronwyn Tarboton focused on freedom, the release of gravity and holding on to earthly concerns. It’s a powerful, touching number. Nirvaan Pal (School of Rock) stole the show with his rendition of “I Can’t Stand It” a song with sharp lyrics and robust musicality.
Matthew Hydzik (Cher Show) offered a touching rendition of “Talk to You” a paen to communication, picking up the pieces and seeing past loss to see love. And Caitlin Kinnunen (The Prom) lent a haunting yearning to “Understanding” an angsty song conquering ones doubts and feelings of adequacy.
Nick Martinez (Bat Out of Hell) also wowed with a wonderful, wistful, turn as the boy in love with the paralyzed girl and wanting to ask her to a dance in “My Point.”
And the evening concluded with “Never Coming Up For Air” rendered potently by recent graduate Mariah Lyttle.
Franklin is an immensely talented man. His shows are filled with witty, urbane lyrics. The music is highly original. And the audience, comprised of friends, fans, and his fellow performers appreciated the jaunty performances and captivating originality of these three hopefully New York in some from musicals.
Photos: Sandi Durell