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Open: 05/08/12- Close: 05/17/12 THE CITY CLUB AN ORIGINAL BLUES & JAZZ MUSICAL

Reviewed for By: Minda Larsen

            The American premiere of the highly-anticipated new musical, The City Club, opens April 23, 2012 at the Minetta Lane Theater and is in previews now.  I have seen advertisements for this opening everywhere; glossy photos of gorgeous, sultry women poring over a microphone.  The headline oozes:  “The City Club is a twisting noir morality tale of intrigue, murder, corruption and sex supported by one of the most seductive blues and jazz scores written for the stage in decades”. Indeed, I was intrigued.... Film Noir, jazz, blues, sex, murder, drugs... who wouldn’t be?

The musical opens with Parker, played by the fabulous Benny Brawner, at the piano; surrounded by a smoke-like blue mist and lit with a single spot. He sings “Dark Streets” in his raspy, sultry baritone and I am hooked! Enter the lovely ladies of The City Club: Crystal, Rose, Lily, and Candy (played by Kristen Martin, Autumn Guzzardi, Kaitlin Mesh and Emily Tyra respectively), donned in short, sexy, sequin numbers. They launch into a full-on song and dance production number “Hot, Sweet and Blonde” and the audience leans forward in their seats, “Hey, this is good.”

Right off the bat, the music grabs you; and with the gorgeous, glittering costumes, fabulous set, sultry lighting, and knockout orchestra... I am thoroughly seduced.  The music (James Compton, Tony De Meur and Tim Brown) is reminiscent of the bygone era; drawing influence from jazz, boogie woogie, torch songs, and the blues. It’s catchy, it’s cool. The band and the arrangements are spot on; ranging from a sexy nightclub trio sound to a swingin’ big band.

The cast is oozing in talent. Kristen Martin (Crystal LaBelle) possesses an undeniable vulnerable, ingénue-like strength, more obvious in the second act. Combined with knock-out looks and a silky voice, Kristen carries the burdens of her character brilliantly. Her solo, “It Ain’t Right”, illustrated by Lorin Latarro’s vivid choreography and executed gorgeously by Kaitlin Mesh (Lily) and Patrick O’Neill (Doc) was a stand-out moment. Another stand-out performance was that of Autumn Guzzardi (Rose). Her two featured scenes: “Can’t Get Off This Train” and “Lollipop Man” are some of the most memorable in the entire show, displaying her superstar talents with a refreshingly genuine and likeable charm.  Ana Hoffman (Maddy) plays the young songstress/seductress with the right combination of susceptibility and grit. Her timing was a bit quirky in some scenes, but her voice makes up for it. Indeed, the stunning “The Game of Life” at the finale of the show contained some of her strongest moments.

The men offered equally strong performances. Broadway veteran Peter Bradbury as the two-faced, revenge seeking Lieutenant served the strongest performance, ranging from dark and twisted to barbaric and violent. The young Andrew Pandeleon (Chaz) surprised the audience with his emotional “It Don’t Make No Never Mind” displaying his range, vocally and dramatically.  

With the red-hot choreography, knock-out performers, catchy tunes and dazzling set, what’s not to love?  Although it came together better in Act two, I did find myself a bit puzzled in the first act. The characters and their relationships were slightly under-developed and I felt myself wanting to get to know them better. Some of the intense moments were underwhelming simply because I wasn’t invested enough in the character’s struggles.  A sucker for a good story, I wanted a little more.

That said, most of my fleeting questions were answered in the second act; it did come together, albeit abruptly and the final twist was truly surprising.  It isn’t a surprise, then, that the show was a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. All the elements are there. It’s a sexy beast of a show.  As I exited the Minetta Lane Theater, I overheard audience members: “...such fabulous dancing” said one, “good pick for tonight” a woman told her husband, “wow, that voice!” said another.  I would agree with my fellow audience. The City Club offers something not readily found on the New York stages. The talent was truly stellar and I guarantee those sexy tunes aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.



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Minetta Lane Theater : 18 Minetta Lane