Sincerely, Oscar misses the boat on so many accounts, but mostly with its arrangements by Lou Lanza, which are horrendous. This is a vanity production meant to show off Doreen Taylor, who wrote the book and sings most of the songs, despite there being another artist sharing the stage with her. The gimmick of the show is a holographic Oscar Hammerstein, who does not sound like Oscar. The voice done by Bob Meenan is so annoying, that I went and looked up how Oscar Hammerstein sounded, because I just couldn’t believe somebody so musical had that voice and sounded very Bronx Tale. Below is an interview that easily shows how musical he was.
What this is a glorified cabaret act, with a guest Azudi Onyejekwe, some over blown projections by Brittany Merenda, that looks stuck in the 70’s in a set by Jason Simms TV musical special set. There are 28 mutilated Hammerstein gems and 18 are sung by Ms. Taylor and 3 sung as duets. It seemed a little out of proportion.
Ms. Taylor, who has a nice tone, only believes in singing from volume’s 5 and above. It wasn’t until the last two songs “Edelweiss” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, that I discovered why. She has stressed out her voice so much, that when she sings in softer tones her voice shows its flaws and these two songs are the worst in the show. To add to this sound designer Robert Balan thinks they are performing at Madison Square Gardens, instead of a small intimate theater. It is hard to enjoy anything when it is so over miked. Singing requires a connection to the lyric and it seemed more about the vowels. The words “You” and “Forever” are never sung correctly as are some others. It is all about the tone and look how fabulously I sing. Sadly Ms. Taylor is so awkward when she moves or sings it just seems uncomfortable. The dress and overlays by Dawna Oak also don’t help as she looks like a Barbie bride from the 1950’s.
Azudi Onyejekwe, who was in the Broadway ensemble of “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” has much more style, grace and better costumes, he just doesn’t have the vocals to carry off leading man. If you could combine these two you might have a full fledge performer. Still he comes off as the one you want to see more of.
Despite the money spent on this show, the music is prerecorded, which just seems completely odd. The hologram while cool when he disappears just seem gimmicky and cheesy when given the dialogue Ms. Taylor has created.
Dugg McDonough’s staging does nothing for this show, but then again so much is out of kilter here that I am sure even Oscar Hammerstein would be annoyed.
Acorn Theater, 410 W. 42nd St. until June 30th.