Book, Music & Lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa.
Directed by Allison Hendrix.
Music Direction by Kory Danielsom.
Choreography by Kasey Alfonso.
Produced by Kokandy Productions.
At Theater Wit, Chicago.
Unlikable woman featured in weirdly unsatisfying chamber musical.
In one of life’s little mysteries, I wonder why the talented creatives at Kokandy Productions chose Little Fish for their summer chamber musical? Little Fish opened in New York City on February 13, 2003, and closed on March 9, 2003; it ran from October 9, 2007, to November 18, 2007 in LA; and ran in London from October 27, 2009, through November 21. All three productions were short-lived and failed. So, with that history, what made Kokandy Productions think they could make that tainted material work? It’s a mystery!
This 85 minute chamber musical is from Charlototte’s (Nicole Laurenzi) point of view as it chronicle her troubled life in Buffalo and New York City. Already suffering from low self-esteem as evidenced by her boy friend’s constant major insults, she decides to quit smoking as she moves to NYC. Upon moving to NYC, she ends up with another nasty roommate. Her compensation for all this is to join the YMCA to swim. That doesn’t work so eventually, with the urging of her NYC friends, Kathy ( Aja Wiltshire) and Marco (Adam Fane), she takes up jogging. Again, to no avail.
What this show depicts are unhappy folks, with Charlotte in the lead, each struggling to find happiness by embarking on a strange modern-day odyssey to thwart their past demons. We never get to like nor care about anyone as we waste 85 minutes witnessing this group of losers on their “Saturns Returns” journey whatever that means? Themes such as isolation versus connection, addiction… trauma and loneliness are sung by a cast of remarkable poor singers trying to make terrible lyrics resonate or even be understood. With the exception of Aja Wiltshire and Adam Fane, no one in the cast can sing adaquately. Some even screamed their lyrics! If you are going to try to make a troubled musical work, best to cast strong singers.
This musical possess a varied musical score infused with Latin, jazz and rock morifs that composer MIchael John LaChiusa described as “pure urban noise within Charlotte’s mind.” I thought the music was the only clever thing in the show although often the music fought the lyrics as the singers battled to be heard (and understood) over the music.
This show is a downer about troubled characters who struggle to find to be better people. Their journey isn’t worth our time and money as presented. I am amazed how the skilled creatives at Kokandy Productions chose such a troubled show that three others producers couldn’t make work. Kokandy Productions is usually outstanding in their shows. Not this time.
At Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL call 773-97508150, www.kokandyproductions.com, tickets $33 – $38, Thursday thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3pm, with Saturday August 12 & 19 performances at 3 pm, running time is 85 minutes without intermission.