Saturday, July 25, 2015

Review: Sheridan's "Hedwig"

Have you ever walked into a show with no knowledge of what you’re about to see, been blown away after mere moments, and then realized you’re witnessing theater history? That is Songs for the Fallen. Written by Basil Hogios and Sheridan Harbridge and performed in a star-making performance by Harbridge, Songs for the Fallen is a bawdy, baroque cabaret-biography musical about Marie Duplessis, the French courtesan who inspired literary characters for ages.
Presented as a larger than life cabaret wonderfully blending 19th century style with modern beats, Songs for the Fallen is an in-your-face journey through the loves of Marie Duplessis and her battles within. Duplessis, the inspiration for the character in The Lady of the Camellias and La Traviata and "Moulin Rogue", was a lady of high expense and lots and lots of lovers. And Harbridge isn’t bashful about telling you of her exploits. The way Harbridge goes about telling this story is by shamelessly breaking the fourth wall, blending self with character, and keeping you engaged with both eccentric comedy and moments of despair. It’s evident Harbridge has done her homework. She’s seen every possible piece on the woman and the characters she inspired. She even gives loving nods to Nicole Kidman. And with such an attention to detail, the character Harbridge has created is nothing short of brilliant. It’s part truth, part character, and it works. Harbridge is a superstar. Like John Cameron Mitchell, Sheridan Harbridge has given the world her Hedwig and the Angry Inch. She has written a star vehicle she deserves to shine in. Harbridge has the vocal talents of a pop star and the presence of a diva. The only thing Harbridge doesn’t have, yet, is the name. But give it time; Harbridge has the power to be a household name. What also makes this piece special is the score by Basil Hogios and Harbridge. The music unites pop and glamor with a tinge reminiscent of Duplessis’ time. And the lyrics are biting. The songs live harmoniously as one but easily could be given to a pop artist like Lady Gaga. In fact, this musical is a perfect show for the pop diva, after Harbridge is ready to pass on the baton of course. Like Hedwig, Songs for the Fallen is a solo show with an ensemble. Songs for the Fallen thrives with the outstanding duo of Simon Corfield and Garth Holcombe who serve as various lovers and Alexandre Dumas, respectively.
photo by Al Foote III
There’s something glorious about seeing a well-polished show in a setting like this. There is a clear marketable objective in Songs for the Fallen. And it is all thanks to director Shane Anthony and his dynamic artistic team. The entire design is carefully detailed and executed. The scenic design by Michael Hankin is flawless. The bed that serves as Harbridge’s home base is luxurious and fit for a diva like Marie. The lighting by Alex Berlage is rock concert chic. While it’s certainly possible that Berlage played a game of light board roulette to master the looks, they certainly paid off. And the image of dying Marie with the entire theater engulfed in red was spellbinding. Each song and moment had its own special look. Even the way Berlage captured the feathers floating around the stage was stunning. The costumes by Lisa Mimmocchi fit the world of the musical, it blended the eras wonderfully and even included some stereotypical jokes. As the one man band, Basil Hogios holds down the fort as he drops beats and masters the squeezebox. Hogios is just as important a player as Harbridge, as this show is all in the timing.
Songs for the Fallen is an experience that needs to be had. Sheridan Harbridge needs to showcase her talents on a global level and bring this show to the masses. What she and her team have going for them is her affinity for the character. Songs for the Fallen gives us the truth in such a sharp and provocative manner that it's revitalizing. The men get Hedwig. The women get Songs for the Fallen.

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