by Peter Haas                                   


There is a collection of talent downtown on the East Side that is well worth a visit. Your destination is the Theater for the New City, on First Avenue at 10th Street. The attraction is a new musical titled “The Folk Singer.”

One element of the talent lies behind the scenes: the musical’s writers: Tom Attea (book and lyrics) and music (composed by Arthur Abrams). Their contemporary story focuses on a group of young folk singers who — inspired by the relevant songs that were created and made popular decades ago by such singer/writers as Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan — decide to mount their own folk-song festival to spotlight up-to-date concerns.

Says Attea: “I wanted to create a work that would comment on today’s times, using new folk songs with contemporary substance.” Directing “The Folk Singer,” including its musical show-within-a -show, is Mark Marcante.

The performance begins in a small café, where five young folksingers decide to create their own new songs and perform them. As they prepare, the walls of the café part to reveal a raised stage representing a park bandstand, where their performances – augmented with a fine four-piece band – then take place. As the principals sing, images representing the subjects of the songs appear on a screen above the stage, enhancing the power of the lyrics. For several numbers as well, the cast’s own performances are projected overhead, for added intimacy with the singers.

The musical numbers are interrupted by four gag skits — reminiscent of long-ago vaudeville — that take place, not on the stage-upon-the-stage but on the theater floor. While they serve as comic relief from the stream of musical numbers, they do feel separate from the spirit of the evening.

The cast is a talented group. They are Mary Adams, Matthew Angel, Larry Fleishman, Olivia A. Griffin, Micha Lazare, Andy Striph and Nick McGuinnness. The park band consists of Arthur Abrams on piano, Ralph Hamperian on bass, Art Lilliard on drums, and, on lilting violin, Susan Mitchel.

“The Folk Singer,” which opened on October 9, is playing a limited engagement, thru October 23.

www.theaterforthenewcity.net/thefolksinger    155 First Avenue, NYC


Photos: Michael Blase