Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Goodbar: Fan-effing-tastic



The live concept album/theatrical event, GOODBAR, created by by Bambi and Waterwell, directed by Arian Moayed and Tom Ridgley, was an unexpected visual and auditory delight.*  I'm not sure anything would have properly prepared me for this show but it did not matter.  At its core, it was a tight narrative, creative design and fantastic music that made it an engaging night at the "theater."



Based on the Judith Rossner novel Looking for Mr. Goodbar (which was in turn based on the true story of a murdered school teacher--and was a controversial film by Richard Brooks starring Diane Keaton), GOODBAR is performed by the band Bambi with additional performances by Kelli O'Hara, Ira Glass, and Bobby Cannavale among others in video projections.  It tells the story of a young teacher of deaf children, Teresa, scarred from a scoliosis operation, who picks up men in bars for rough, sexual encounters.  It ends in her stabbing death by one of these pick-ups. 




Hanna Cheek and Kevin Townley performed the lead vocals and the primary live characters in the story.  With gorgeous voices and a musical score full of emotional urgency, the raw rock power of the songs worked well to convey Teresa's sexual needs, her emotional struggles and the world in which she is exploring.  The music was sometimes infectiously catchy, soulful at other times. Both Cheek and Townley had fantastic voices and serious stage-presence.

I was really impressed with the use of video to add to the narrative at times and at other times create a sense of place, feeling or texture.  Alex Koch did the video design. For the majority of the time I thought the images and graphics used enhanced the production.  They acted as both background and at times took center stage to deliver the story.

The graphic murder at the end played out in video with the cast leaving the stage (which I liked).  But I thought the images were the most "literal" of the evening and maybe a little too on the nose.  A lot of images were quite graphic.  For the sensitive out there, there is full-on pornographic imagery used.


Another fantastic design element was the costumes by Erik Bergrin.  My photographs could never capture the creative use of texture, color and character through costuming.  There was a jacket with its fringe made of colored pencils, Teresa's dresses had buckles all the down the back to represent the scars on her back. The costumes were inventive.  They added to the characters without being a distraction.

For those bemoaning the lack of new musicals or complaining that musicals based on previous material are all too common (this is probably me at various times a year), GOODBAR shows that adapting known material but making that adaptation feel utterly fresh, creative and new is possible and entirely welcome.  The material is disturbing and controversial but they managed to present it without judgment and with a real emotional integrity.

Maybe I kinda sorta wish they'd had a go at adapting Once as well.  Now that would be controversial.

*We were encouraged to live tweet the show and take photographs which explains my many photos and the head of the girl in front of me in all of them.  Damn her giant head.

 



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