Sunday, December 1, 2013


New York, the Depression years. In order not to loose her job, a journalist publishes in her column a letter of a man, John Doe, who says he will jump off of a bridge on Christmas day. The problem is that the letter is a fake, but the success of the column is so big that her and her boss must find a man to be John Doe. This story was written for one of Frank Capra’s classic movie and it’s not a surprise that someone decided to turn it into a musical. 

I believe this is Andrew Gerle (music) and Eddie Sugarman (lyrics) first musical and they won the Jonathan Larson award for it. The show began life in a concert production, had its world premiere production at the Ford’s Theatre in 2007 and it finally gets a studio cast recording.

The score begins with “Yesterday’s News” that reminded me of the better MERRILLY WE ROLL ALONG, followed by a good “I’m Your Man” sung with gusto by Heidi Blickensatff. The next three songs don’t sound the era, but “Get the Picture” kind of captures it and that’s the problem. Some of the songs, like “Money Talks”, promise the kind of traditional musical scores I enjoy, but others like “He Speaks to Me” or “Thank You” take us to a more contemporary sound inspired by the work of Stephen Sondheim (ASSASSINS and BOUNCE). Sometimes it seems we’re listening to two different musicals. This doesn’t mean this is bad, but I think Gerle & Sugarman have the talent to write a more coherent score.

As for the cast, Heidi Blickensatff sounds great in the role of the journalist and her “He Threw Me” is one of the highlights of the recording. Robert Cuccioli as her boss sings well but fails to have a great moment. In the role of John Doe, James Moye reveals a beautiful voice in the romantic duet “Who the Hell (Forgot to Tell My Heart)” and a strong one in “New American Times”.

This isn’t the kind of score that’ll conquer you at a first listening, but give it a chance and it might grow on you. There are good songs here, but I couldn’t help wonder what someone like Kander & Ebb would have done with this material.

Rate: 6 (from 1 to 10)

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