by: Paulanne Simmons
People react differently to divorce. Some drown their sorrow in drink. Some take advantage of their newfound freedom with endless partying. Ken Kirsh wrote songs. And eventually those songs morphed into a show, Failing Forward: The Bluesical, which made its 54 Below debut July 15.
As a communications consultant, corporate event consultant and author of How to Kill Your Company: 50 Ways You’re Bleeding Your Organization and Damaging Your Career, Kirsh might be considered something of an expert on human relations. And as the narrator of his show, he offers many observations on relationships: “Whoever said the camera doesn’t lie never went on a match.com date.” or “There are no shortcuts to reinventing yourself.”
The problem is none of these observations is particularly original, nor are the lyrics to his songs, nor, in fact, is the music, which Kirsh calls “a blend of rock, blues, soul and even a little bit of Broadway.” He might have added that the spirit of Billy Joel hovers over the greater part of the show.
What Failing Forward does have, however is a topnotch band with Bette Sussman on piano, Larry Saltzman on guitar, Dave Anderson on bass, Joel Rosenblatt on drums and Bill Harris on saxophone. Sussman pounds out the melodies on the piano as if her life depends on it. And when Harris takes a solo, he gives the audience something to remember.
The two vocalists are Chrissi Poland and Tom Bowes. Given the decibel level of the music, these performers should be given credit just for making themselves heard. But they are more than just loud. Their spirit and enthusiasm manage to make the most of the generic music and bland lyrics.
Despite this reviewer’s reservations, many people will find this show entertaining. Truth is Failing Forward is really a rock concert with a bit of commentary. If that’s your thing, go for it.
54 Below, 254 West 54 St. www.54below.com.