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Pat Towne and Michael Franco's world premiere staging of Zappa's narrative album crackles with outrage and grief masked by a leer Jennifer Lettelleir choreographs plenty of sex, but like Robert Crumb's comics, it's more repellent than titillating.
Musical director Ross Wright and the seven piece band help the snappy ensemble animize Zappa's eclectic sound which ranges from dissonant juggernauts to deceptively sweet ditties.
Amy Motta is all flash and tinsel as the carny barker guiding us through the network of misunderstandings and missed connections, such as her sweetly rendered ballad requesting her new boyfriend to lay off the sodomy, and the faux-indignance of a gay man Eric Bunton having to endure the sight of a teenage man lolling around nude near his bedroom window in the stifling heat.
These are highlights, but Taylor pushes the jokes too hard, beyond the range of their own humor, revealing the superficial essence of the project, like a less than enthralling episode of Saturday Night Live.
If storytelling isn't Roht's forte, however, he once again proves his genius at talent recruitment.
This year's strong, pitch-perfect company generates enough singing and dancing power to light up an entire Broadway season.
We witness scenes of panic, rabid paranoia, murder by gunshots, and lots of dying, in which the populace reacts much like a horde of lab rats.A piano, two saxophones, a string bass, drum set, a trumpet and trombone, all on the stage of this seat theater, places us in the equivalent of a small recording studio.When the band hits its stride with enveloping riffs of Dixieland blues and Big Band stylings, hang on to your seat. This journey through Prima's life puton on the eve of his death in Smith is still alive and thriving.As in past years, the trick is to limit his costume Ann Closs-Farley and set Jason Adams designers to use only what they can scrounge from the titular discount chain for Roht's decidedly silly burlesques of Radio City-style, holiday musical spectaculars.It almost makes one overlook Roht's failure to gird his polished production numbers with the narrative spine of a coherent book.
Prima had a more gruff sound than that depicted by Broder, whose sculpted, jazzy tones more closely resemble Bobby Darin's.