Do you love musicals, want to laugh, so hard you cry and like well-crafted theatre? Giddy-up to New World Stages to see the Drama Desk (Best Lyrics and Music) and Outer Critic winning new musical Desperate Measures. Playing to sold out houses at the York Theater, Desperate Measures offsets the grim state of both our world and of musical theatre. This adorable, witty, tuneful version of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, is the best musical of the season.
This westernized version, is reminiscent of Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles and Das Barbecü. The book and lyrics by Peter Kellogg (Anna Karenina), done in Iambic pentameter, are clever, hilarious, and unexpected. The music by David Friedman (Listen to My Heart) is melodic and gets under your skin. I heard several people commenting on wanting the CD and I have to agree, this is one to own and it is soon to be released and is the 1st off Broadway cast album for Sony Masterworks in about 25 years.
The show is based on the saving of Johnny Blood (Conor Ryan), who shot a man for hitting on his salon-gal-singer girlfriend, Bella Rose (Lauren Molina). Johnny is due to hang in two days. The sheriff (Peter Saide), wanting to help Johnny, tracks down his sister, Susanna (Sarah Parnicky), who’s due to take her vows as a Catholic nun. It seems the German ex-officer Governor Richterhenkenpflichtgetruber (Nick Wyman from Broadway’s Catch Me If You Can) doesn’t believe in clemency for anyone. When the Governor sees Susanna, he offers Johnny’s life for her virginity. The Sheriff and Susanna come up with the idea to switch Susanna for Bella, but when they do the Governor only becomes more enamored. Now the Governor will only comply if Susanna marries him. As the drunken Irish priest (Gary Marachek) who no longer believes in God is about to perform the ceremony, identities are revealed and the unlikely lovers all unite.
Peter Saide is ruggedly handsome with a beautiful voice that will have you swooning on ‘That’s Just How It Is” and “Stop There”. Conor Ryan brings to mind a young Gene Wilder mixed with Donald O’Conner, sweet and slightly dim-witted with vocals that purr. When he kicks his heels up in “Good to be Alive” we feel his joy. Mr. Ryan may just find his career soaring after this. His duet with the rubber-faced Lauren Molina, “Just for You”, is infectious as these two show how perfectly matched comedians can bring delight. Molina also shines in “It’s Getting Hot in Here”. She’s like a western Norma Cassidy from Victor/Victoria. As the sweet-as-pie, prickly-as-a-tumbleweed heroine, Sarah Parnicky brings a sincerity to this hysterical evening of fun. Her song “What is this Feeling?” about wanting that sexy Sheriff’s kiss lets us know a nunnery was never for her. Gary Marachek gives the priest moments to call his own, and Nick Wyman’s fabulously layered performance as the scheming Governor that is worth the price of admission. He steals the show with “Some Day They Will Thank Me” and “What a Night”.
Normally when shows move they lose something in the process. Desperate Measures has gain more heart, humor and hilarity. This is a must-see show and the funniest production to open in New York in the last 30 years.
Desperate Measures: New World Stages #4 at 340 West 50th Street.