PILLARS ON WEAK FOUNDATION
REVIEW: PILLARS OF NEW YORK
BY RYAN M. LUÉVANO
Fresh on the heels of a new year, the L.A. theater scene is already seeing the influx of original L.A. musicals like Pillars of New York by Michael Antin. This musical tells the story about four couples’ struggles in and around the events surrounding 9/11 told via psychologist Jake Kelly. Bringing anything to audiences regarding the tragedy of 9/11 is a sensitive task that must be undertaken with superb craftsmanship and tact—in the case of Pillars of New York the musical falls short.
With the creation of any new musical the biggest mistake a writer makes is moving forward too soon with the first production. As it stands, Pillars of New York is a byproduct of a writer rushing production of a show that is not ready. The musical is premature in so many ways: music, lyrics, character development, overall structure and so much more. This staged production is a disservice to the material, actors and audiences. Take away all the costumes, set pieces, lighting and present Pillars as a workshop—that’s the only way to salvage this musical.
Overall this production is also weak, due largely to the material, but also due to the direction by Jim Blanchette. For such a simple story there is too much happening on stage, too many unnecessary set changes, so much so that they interrupted the flow of the action. Additionally, the scenes are full of hackneyed staging and movement. This makes it difficult to connect with the characters, though part of this is due to Antin’s catchpenny and bromidic songs, “Clickity Clack,” “When You Come Down To It,” “You Put A Spell on Me,” and “Hard Place”.
The cast does their best with the material and direction, but they are fighting a losing battle—the music is often in a tessitura that does not suit the voices that are cast. Even so, there are some standout performances. Molly Gilman (Carrie) and Marza Warsinske (Bianca) offer some of the best vocal performances of the evening as they tackle Antin’s unsystematic score.
WHAT ABOUT THE MUSIC DIRECTOR?
Music director Rob Bowers is the solo pianist keeping the show together—his performance is focused and delightful. Bowers, who also contributed to new arrangements for the show, is the driving force that keeps up the musical’s momentum. His performance brings life to all the transitions and underscoring while adding a driving energy to all the songs.
What Pillars of New York seeks to bring to the theater is certainly admirable, however, in its current state the piece is undercooked. Pillars of New York runs through February 21st, 2016 at the Brickhouse Theatre, (Friday and Saturday at 7:30 PM and Sunday at 1:30 PM). For more information and tickets visit: www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2476580.