ART IS A LIE
CREATION IS A CRIME
IT’S NOT A RIGHTEOUS FIGHT
TO BRING THE AUDIENCE ENLIGHTENMENT
IT’S WHO CAN GIVE THE MOST BANG FOR THEIR DIME
THE AUTHOR’S JOB WAS NEVER AUTHENTICITY THE PAINTER’S AND MUSICIAN’S ARE THE SAME GIVE THE PUBLIC WHAT THEY WANT: PUBLICITY GIVE THE ARTISTS WHAT THEY WANT:
ACCLAIM A NAME AND FAME
A FRAUD TO BELIEVE
These are the lyrics to “Art is a Lie” from Georama: An American Panorama Told on Three Miles of Canvas, one of the most interesting shows at NYMF. Exploring the life of “the most famous man you’ve never heard of,” forgotten 19th-century American artist John Banvard. This bio-musical is well written by West Hyler (book), with an infectious score Matt Schazt (book, music, and lyrics) and is well orchestratedwith additional music and lyrics by Jack Herrick. The cast of of six is highly talented and the projections by Jason Thompson, make this show a winner, that I can see this being played regionally all over the country, as well is in museums. On strings and piano Ana Marcu and Jacob Yates (Musical Director), introduce us to the the first meeting between Banvard (PJ Griffith) and Taylor (Randy Blair), as the fast talking showman who gets them jobs on a showboat docked on the Mississippi. Not drawing audiences, Chapman (Nick Sullivan), threatens to fire them until Banvard creates the first panorama and wows the crowds. Taylor starts to take all the credit and Banvard moves on, ending up on a river bank and being rescued by a pastor (Sullivan again). There he meets the pastor’s daughter Elizabeth Goodnow (Jillian Louis), a composer who sees a kindred spirit in Banvard. Together they create a 3 miles of canvas panorama accompanied by music, which draws audiences including Chapman and Taylor, now known as P.T. Barnum. They entice the two to London, where they call the panarama’s, georama’s and meet the Queen (Blair again). Barnum rips off their work and produces multiple imitations. Banvard heart sick heads to Egypt with Elizabeth, now his wife, to gather exhibits for a museum. As they get back they find Barnum again has beaten them to the punch. Barvard builds an extravagant castle on Long Island, known as “Banvard’s Folly”, spends lavishly, starts to drink and loses everything. Elizabeth leaves him going out west. Barnum again tries to steal what Barvard has created, but that only succeeds in getting Banvard to head west and reconciliation awith his wife realizing “Art is a Lie”.
P.J. Griffith’s portrayal of Banvard is multi-layered, with emotional pockets that captivate the audience. Starting off as a lone wolf, who gives his paintings away for free, to a man who collaborates with Elizabeth, to getting sucked into the games of Barnum, we see this man’s human failings. By the end when he realizes, who he is and that art for him was his love of nature. We feel as if we have gone the whole journey with him. Jillian Louis voice and acting skills are impressive and at times, you almost wish this was her show, she is so talented. She brings a grounding and a strength to the piece. Nick Sullivan excels at all the roles he plays and is hysterical as Queen Victoria. Last but not least is the scene stealing Randy Blair who without knowing Taylor was PT Barnum thought, he make a great Barnum. Mr. Blair is the quintessential musical theatre performer who exceeds in all that he does.
Directed by Hyler, this piece moves at a clip and allows you to feel as if you know each and every character and that a little part of you is in each one.
Georama, scenic design by Scott Neale, is dominated by projection design by Jason H. Thompson, which is enhanced by Ann Wrightson’s moody lighting.
Georama made me think of P.T. Barnum and wondered how many people and animals, did this man use, destroy and manipulate? We honor him with musicals, but this man may have gotten away with so many injustices, that he seems more like a Satan himself and disclosing that would make an interesting play. As for John Banvard, and the Georama’s, I hope this show has a life and brings Banvard’s name the fame he deserved. Sometimes technology stifles creativity and that is a great loss. You can still catch this and I suggest you make time for this charming musical.
YOU GIVE YOUR BLOOD YOUR SWEAT YOUR TEARS BUT ALL THEY WANT ARE SOUVENIRS
SO SAVE YOUR PRECIOUS HEART
TAKE YOUR LIFE
AND MAKE A COPY
NO ONE GIVES A DAMN HOW SLOPPY
TRY AND CATCH ME
TRY AND STOP ME
TEAR IT ALL APART
ART IS A LIE!
IS AN ART
Georama: An American Panorama Told on Three Miles of Canvas: NYMF at Peter Jay Sharp Theater, 8/5 @ 9pm and 8/10 @ 5:30 pm.