We have all done it in this business – written something awful, acted in something awful, submitted something self-created and awful to a theater festival and then thanked the gods that it was rejected because it was just not our best work. AMERICA’S FAVORITE NEWSCASTER, a new musical with book and lyrics by Tom Attea, music by Arthur Abrams, directed by Mark Marcante*, at Theater For the New City is just – so sorry – really awful.
The time is the present. The premise of the show is that America’s highest rated newscaster, Evan Fury (Isaac Miller), is burning out. Covering current events dominated by our surreal government officials is leaving him very little energy for the attention his lovely pregnant wife, Cheryl Fury (Alexandra Schwartz) requires. And that’s it. For two hours, this is the only real point. And then everyone pauses to sing about it every few minutes. And the singing is very very quiet. Does anyone in this show have a diaphragm? And the choreography by Angela Harriell, while loaded with fun ideas, is executed by the extremely unsure feet of the performers.
Miller’s lines are in the voice of someone of a class elevated from the other characters. This works well in the opening of Scott Spencer’s novel, Endless Love, but it just does not land with the audience of this musical play. Listening to Miller is as tiresome as listening to a teenage boy who shows off his vocabulary for the purposes of proving to us that he knows everything already. Miller’s execution is a singular note throughout the piece with some insipid mugging leaving us all wondering why his wife craves his attention at all.
We have seen all the jokes presented in this show before. Yes, pregnant women eat pickles and ice cream and talk to their mothers on the phone about the frustrating behaviors of their husbands. One could sleep through these scenes and, indeed, some audience members did. Schwartz does the absolute best she can with these tired gags and, to her credit, I don’t think anyone could have done any better.
Schwartz has a terrific sense of comic timing and understands that subtle gestures not seen by everyone watching are still genius. I look forward to seeing her in other productions that make more use of her talent with superior unique material.
Brent (Juan Villegas), Fury’s on-the-scene sidekick reporter, is a character loaded with opportunity for physical comedy. He is not white and so is assaulted while trying to cover the White House in the field. This reviewer would have laughed if Villegas had committed about fifty percent more to the physical part of his character. There was certainly plenty of room on the set for him to go nuts with it. The set, designed by Marcante, was sloppy and loaded with space that was never used. It would have been so much more effective to move the show closer to the audience – that is, if anything intimate or beyond cliche happened in the story.
The character of President (David O. Friedman) was done with refreshing flare. No one snoozed when he burst on the scene disturbing the fitful dreams of the conflicted Fury. Despite being in better shape than our actual Commander in Chief and more handsome, he brought the offending likeness to life and did make us chuckle with clever impressions. Still, we needed something deeper from this character to gratify us and show us an enlightened point of view. Alas, this was not to be.
It is extremely important, in this reviewer’s opinion, to keep experimental theatre alive and well-funded in our times. It really is okay if something takes a lot of work and just flops. This is what the road to better performances looks like. AMERICA’S FAVORITE NEWSCASTER is one of these efforts – just a pit stop on that highway to glory. Better luck next time, Darlings.
AMERICA’S FAVORITE NEWSCASTER Book and Lyrics by Tom Attea, Directed by Mark Marcante, Msic Composed by Arthur Abrams
WITH Isaac Miller (Evan Fury), Alexandra Schwartz (Cheryl Fury), Matt Gorsky (Richard), Juan Villegas (Brent), David O. Friedman (President), David Sloan Esq. (Oscar), Gabrielle Sarrubbo (Madelyn), Robert Homeyer (Fred), Justin Rodriguez (Ned), and Kate McMorran (Ensemble).
AMERICA’S FAVORITE NEWSCASTER through Sunday, January 28, 2018 at Theater For the New City (155 1st Avenue, between East 9th and East 10th Streets, NYC).