Review by Elizabeth Foster
“Don’t miss the one and only Cardiff Giant. Taller than Goliath whom David slew. Genuine, 10 ft, 4 ½ inches tall, 2990 lbs.” “Tickets 50 cents!” screamed the banner and Stub (Forest VanDyke), the genius behind the exhibit.
This was a clever, humorous, and delightful stage production with joy heightened through the music of Kit Goldstein Grant. Storytelling at its best, the adorable Emily (Staci Stout) leaves home in 1869 to see the Cardiff Giant but upon her arrival at the circus discovers she has but 7 cents, 43 cents short of the 50-cent admission charge. She banters with Stub (aka William Newell) who runs the sideshow featuring the Cardiff (Daniel Moser), a “mysterious petrified giant” from a time long ago. Convincing Stubs that she can learn the business and work for him, she is to receive room and board and full access to the Cardiff. An innocent child Emily, steals our hearts. She believes in kindly imaginary friends, trolls, the tooth fairy and Stub’s sideshow sensation.
Religious zealots and scientists alike are fascinated by the Cardiff, paying their entry fees to examine it through their respective religious and magnifying lenses. They debate, providing their version of proof that the Cardiff is either a fake or a genuine article. One Bible toting denizen quotes verse to attest that giants like David’s famed Goliath and the Cardiff lived long ago in our world. A scientist from Yale University Dr. Martin (Yvette Monique Clark) argues that the Cardiff is phony. Stub provides compelling well-rehearsed proof of the Cardiff’s authenticity.
Eminent circus legend P.T. Barnum appears and is jealous of the Cardiff’s financial success. He spins a web of chicanery by creating his own Cardiff for display in New York City, eventually challenging Stub in court to protect his new sideshow moneymaker. His maxim of “there’s a sucker born every minute” comes to mind. Legal wrangling leads to identifying the actual hoax and ramifications of this discovery.
One wonderful song follows another portraying through music, drama, and puppetry a story of innocence meeting the reality of life just as it heralds honesty and truth’s triumph. Grant has succeeded in painting miniature aural masterpieces enhancing the portrayals and story. The cast members aptly evoke and emote the imaginative nostalgic story through their singing and presence through both solos and harmony. Dance emphasizes the emotional impact of the songs and story through visual motion and imagery.
Tyler Carlton Williams’ costume designs are extraordinary. PT Barnum’s stature and ringmaster top hat and Stub’s regal colors effectively drew us into a late 90th century circus arena. Puppetry by Noel Williams coordinated beautifully with Moser’s costume.
This show is destined for Broadway with its wonderful singing, dancing, music and acting and perhaps a live orchestra to intensify its intimate musical beauty, reminiscence, and romanticism. It’s great family entertainment connecting a familiar yet imaginative story with all. Children and adults alike smiled, laughed and empathized with the characters throughout the musical. Most were humming the tunes on the way out of the theater.
The moral of the story is to tell the truth. Truth is, every family should see this performance.
The Giant Hoax is presented by IndieWorks Theatre Company in association with Visceral Entertainment. Producers: Judith Manocherian, Tom Gavin, Christopher Michaels & Jeremy Terry; Scenic Designer: Theron Wineinger; Costume Designer: Tyler Carlton Williams; Lighting Designer: Conor Martin Mulligan; Props Designer: Michael Henry Grant; Music Assistant: Gaby Manks; Production Stage Manager: Katherine Bolynn; Publicist: Paul Siebold/Off Off PR; General Management/Executive Producer: Visceral Entertainment.
At the Theater Row, Theatre One, 410 West 42nd St, Between 9th and 10 Avenues, NY NY 10036. Tickets from $40-$75 through December 7, 2019 with Rush tickets at the door on hour prior to each performance for $18.69. Tickets and information at 212-239-6200 or https://www.telecharge.com/Off-Broadway/The-Giant-Hoax/Overview.
Runtime: 90 minutes without intermission