By Marcina Zaccaria
The Apple Boys: A Barbershop Quartet Musical celebrates every aspect of turn of the century artistry.
The race to win a singing competition begins humbly in Coney Island. We meet the four “Brothers in Song” in a quick sequence that introduces all of the main characters, including the Founder of Nathan’s Franks, Johnny Appleseed’s grandson, and the Designer of the Cyclone, Brooklyn’s oldest roller coaster. With charming songs about early subway transportation, and the difficulties of turn of the century pricing, the four capable decide to sell red apples to attract attention. They sing while selling the apples (and considering the larger orchard), they find that it is their music and not their produce that is most marketable.
It’s an incredibly well-designed experience. Like pocket cabaret, it has elements of surprise and comedic bits. However, it’s so complete in form. Direction by David Alpert makes great use of the space. Actors jump on trunks and present in straight lines for performance, when not evoking soft shoe routines or silent film era, sight gags. Tight musical sequences and fanciful dances bring cheers. Costumes by Lindsay McWilliams include bowties, vests, and fitted trousers. Coat racks contain some frivolous hats, providing the opportunity for characters to reinvent themselves.
Memorable performances are provided by Jonothon Lyons, Amanda Ryan Paige, Jelani Remy, and Teddy Yudain. Their need to capture the American Dream, and live through the hard times is absolutely endearing. In their home lives and personal relationships, they find that they are not a flash in the pan, but hearty Americans ready to take on the City. By the end of the show, they embody the spirit of Fiorello Laguardia and Robert Moses.
Book is by Jonothon Lyons. He’s really done quite a bit to capture the essence of what it was like to breathe in the sea air, and dream of creating a success for oneself. Details about the flaws of early citizens and the crash of an off-ramp cyclone produce all essential tales of calamity, eased later in the production. While the device of getting to the big show is common, it’s largely successful. The story is so persuasive, It might even make the most jaded New Yorker nostalgic.
Music and Lyrics are by Ben Bonnema. The four-part harmonies are easy to follow and largely successful. It’s a joy to hear the ranges. Pianist Rona Siddiqui appears on stage only briefly, but her Ragtime-style piano is welcome from her upright piano; the chords and base notes work so practically with the harmonies.
It’s a thoroughly enjoyable 75 minutes.
The Apple Boys: A Barbershop Quartet Musical is playing at HERE, located at 145 Sixth Avenue. If you’re looking for a fun, new musical celebrating the triumphs of Coney Island’s past, this could be the one.