Streaming the songs of the last remaining Trees, this eccentric majestic new musical sprouts up strong and sure, spreading its wide branches to address the issues of climate change, deforestation, and the selfishness of mankind, just in time for Christmas. The compelling and magically sung piece of art and design is an eclectic downtown diversion from “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Scrooged” and one I’m most grateful for. It’s a far cry from all the Yuletide gay Hallmark-y Christmas tales I’ve been watching as of late, and a much wiser and interesting walk Into The Woods. Dynamically based on the very true horror story of how we are destroying our planet, moment by moment, tree by tree and inspired by Peter Wohlleben’s international best selling book, “The Hidden Life of Trees“, the compellingly intricate and hypnotizing video-on-demand musical takes us back to the days of live East Village theatre. Splicing together some Sondheim sensibilities with an abundance of abstract performance art, the new creation, with music and lyrics by its wildly creative director Mur (Shopgirl The Musical), grows forth with bold strokes, giving us a new breed of streamed theatre to be in awe of and fully embrace.
Towering above us all, in dynamically created pillars of tubular color, the talented crew of singer performers; Aisha Kerensa, Jade Litaker, Nyah Raposo, Haley Fortune, and Mur, find and deliver the power of Trees with a vocal force to be reckoned with. They entice and caress you in to their dimension, with melodically performed harmonies and wisely structured lyrics, to discover and get a glimpse into the magical musical woods unlike any other, including Sondheim. With structured compilations, the rainbow grove of Trees entwine it all together to teach us the wise lessons required “through the summer and rain.” With beauty, they each stand strong, representing the sole living species survivor on our troubled planet, from Oak to Ginkgo Biloba. They plead with a determined strength, asking us to stop our attack on the lungs of our planet. Singing forth with passion and “a life of pain” that resonates with the intended shaming of our blind intentions, the piece gives focus and clarity through a fantastically intricate staging that elevates the fringy, off -off Broadway feel, giving it a higher branch-waving stance to take in and be excited by.
And then man, in green haired form, comes along, and made me want to step back and not care as much. I would have chopped him down, if I could, and I guess that’s the point, to feel and see the disheartening disregard of all that soulful humanity that lives and breathes in those majestic towers of strength. “Stop the fire!” they proclaim, as the “extinction rate is alarming,” and the warning of imminent danger is impossible not to see. The somewhat twisted many branched musical generally holds us tight in its strongly constructed and uniquely crafted branches, making us visualize the bigger forest for all those trees. It’s not the most obvious or straightforward of pieces (and definitely not for all tastes), but the determined precision and clever vision, with an eye for creative detail, thanks to choreography by Hannah Cullen; costumes by Carter Kidd; makeup by Alex Levy; assistant director, Hannah Cullen; director of photography and still photos by David Doobinin; and lighting by Kryssy Wright, are hard to ignore. Filmed and produced by wild project and Ana Mari de Quesada, Trees was originally intended to premiere in its entirety at La MaMa on April 2 2020 but was obviously postponed because of the COVID19 pandemic. But like any great artist, Mur took on the current restrictions that face the performing arts community and used the framework as an opportunity for innovation, creation, and evolution in theater.
After being trimmed down to 30 minutes, Trees leans most wisely into the evolution and beauty of digital theater, giving it a polished and purposeful look and feel. This video-on-demand will be available beginning Friday, December 18 and be available to view through January 1, 2021. Tickets are $15 per household, available at thewildproject.org.
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