The Unsinkable Molly Brown, at the Transport Theatre Company makes you remember just why you love musicals. During the first act you just sit there smiling infectiously at Beth Malone’s incredible energy and spirit, as well as Kathleen Marshall’s stunning choreography. Once the second act begins, you are caught up in the new book by Dick Scanlan, which is based on the original by Richard Morris. By the end you are crying and completely satisfied.
This revitalized and remounted version of this classic musical comedy has updated the script to include more of Margaret Tobin Brown’s real life. Brown lived from 1867 to 1932. A child of immigrants, Brown not only survived the Titanic, but helped others get into lifeboats and founded the Titanic Survivors Committee. She fought against injustice, saying we can do better than that. She ran soup kitchens, started a literacy league, She helped juvenile offenders, started homes for pregnant girls, fought for immigrants rights and labor rights. She fought furiously to right any wrong.
The score by Meredith Willson has additional songs from his catalog, with new lyrics by Scanlan. Willson’s original music was adapted by Michael Rafter, with orchestrations by Larry Hochman and dance arrangements by David Chase. The result is a fresh invigorating score that is toe tapping. “I Ain’t Down Yet”, “Belly Up to the Bar, Boys”, “I’ll Never Say No”, “I’d Like To Change Everything About You” and “Cuppa Tea” stand out and are hummable melodies.
The show follows Molly (Malone) as she meets her husband J.J. (David Aron Damane) and friends Julia (Whitney Bashor), Vincenzo (Omar Lopez-Cepero), Erich (Alex Gibson), and Arthur (Paolo Montalban) at Horace Tabor’s silver mine. When silver has been replaced by gold, J.J. comes up with a way to mine it. Becoming rich allows Molly to make her dream of living in Denver and becoming part of society come true. Society does not accept the nouveau riche and Molly ends up helping the people of Denver who need her. When their friends want to unionize, Molly goes against her husband and in turn their marriage falls apart. They divorce and Molly goes to Europe, leaving Johnny behind. When J.J. has a stroke she boards the RMS Titanic, and becomes a heroine when the ship sinks and she helps rescue her fellow passengers. Molly is welcomed home by J.J and the people she loves.
Tony-Nominee, Beth Malone gives a tour-de-force performance. She is adorable as Molly Brown, lighting up the stage like firecrackers on the 4th of July. David Aron Damane vocally warms the house with his rich baritone. Whitney Bashor, voice is brings back the sound of Katherine Grayson. Omar Lopez-Cepero, Alex Gibson, and Paolo Montalban, song, “He’s My Friend,” is wonderfully sung. Paula Leggett Chase and Nikka Graff Lanzarone have impressive dance moves and comedic stage presence. Coco Smith’s nearly steals the scenes she is in, as the Browns’ maid. This whole ensemble has been well cast.
Three-time Tony winner Kathleen Marshall’s choreography, will remind you of Michael Kidd’s phenomenal work for Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. Her direction is wonderfully paced and she brings out the best of her talented cast.
The scenic design by Brett J. Banakis, costume design by Sky Switser, with fabulous gowns for Ms. Malone by Paul Tazewell, lighting design by Peter Kaczorowski and sound design by Walter Trarbach are all wonderfully done.
With a remarkable performance by Ms. Malone and powerful messages of faith, hope and charity The Unsinkable Molly Brown should be on your list of must see shows. See it before this moves to Broadway, because it will be a shame if it doesn’t.
The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Transport Theatre Company at Abrons Art Center, 155 Grand Street, through March 22nd