Review by Bryan Clark
Photo by Erica Parise
Glimpses of The Moon is a pleasant musicalization of a 1922 novel by Edith Wharton, better known today for her earlier work The Age of Innocence. This production had an initial run at the Algonquin Oak Room from January to March of this year, and has now returned for a second engagement with new actors in three of the six roles. John Mercurio’s music has a plausible and upbeat jazz-age flavor, though not especially memorable. The book and lyrics by Tajlei Levis are more interesting, and could easily stand alone as a non-musical period piece.
The story is familiar: society girl Susy wants to break free from her dependence on well-heeled patrons and find true love, while writer Nick wants to secure a patron for his artistic endeavors…and find true love. No surprises in this storyline, as the lovers come together out of convenience, fall in love, compromise their principles, fall out of love, prepare to marry within their own circles – but wait! Will true love prevail over money and class? A no-brainer, but the great chemistry between Autumn Hurlbert and Chris Peluso holds the tension to the very end. Hurlbert is particularly strong, in a nuanced performance that invites empathy even when her character’s behavior is not so attractive.
Jane Blass gives a brilliant and effortless turn as Ellie Vanderlyn, Susy’s would-be mentor in the world of high society. She seems born to play this character, and her words flow out as though she wrote the role herself. Glenn Peters has a huge arc to contend with in the duplicitous role of Winthrop Strefford, and he delivers it with precision and vigor. Daren Kelly does fine as Nelson Vanderlyn, a smallish role which mainly rests on his exit scene – which he performs with understated enthusiasm. The only odd note comes from Laura Jordan as Nick’s stalker/other-love-interest Coral, a role which does suggest a certain degree of eccentricity but reaches out of the period style in this interpretation. (Jordan doubles as the superfluous character Ursula, a character that is used in the opening scene to introduce Nick and then never appears again.)
Surprisingly, the least successful aspect of this production is its placement in the Oak Room. The sprawling story takes us from brownstones to fishing lodges to fur boutiques, but the production is firmly stuck in the Oak Room. Although Marc Bruni’s direction and James Milkey’s lighting work wonders in the cramped quarters, the fact remains that this piece is a play, not a cabaret act, and belongs on a stage. (The brief scene in The Oak Room itself, with a walk-on appearance by a rotating guest star, is awkward and incongruous.) The audience members who were seated within inches of the action were by turns excited and uncomfortable, but in either case they were highly visible and needlessly distracting. Above all, the Oak Room doesn’t hold up so well under theatrical lighting. Never noticed that cheesy Motel 6 carpeting? Now you have. But this ill-advised venue does not diminish the value of this otherwise well-conceived new musical. As was noted in the reviews of the earlier run, Glimpses of the Moon is well-suited for summer stock and small regional theatres, and it should have a healthy future life.
Based on the novel by Edith Wharton
Book & lyrics by Tajlei Levis
Music by John Mercurio
Directed by Marc Bruni
Choreographed by Denis Jones
Music Direction by Rick Hip-Flores
Producer: Sharon Carr
Lighting Design: James Milkey
Costume Design: Lisa Zinni
Scenic Consultant: Ted LeFevre
General Manager: Brierpatch Productions / Laura Janik Cronin & Scott Newsome
Production Stage Manager: Carlos Maisonet
Press Representative: Katie Rosin/Kampfire Films PR
Featuring: Autumn Hurlbert (Susy), Chris Peluso (Nick), Jane Blass (Ellie), Laura Jordan (Ursula/Coral), Daren Kelly (Nelson) and Glenn Peters (Winthrop “Streffy”)
Understudies: Russell Arden Koplin and Matt Lutz
Reed player at performance reviewed: Dave Nolan
Guest star at performance reviewed: Lisa Asher
59 West 44th Street
For reservations call 866-468-7619 or visit ticketweb.com.
Mondays at 8PM
(doors at 6PM; dinner service to 7:30PM)