By Holli Harms
The Unsinkable Molly Brown is finally back on the New York Stage in this spectacular production directed and choreographed by three-time Tony winner, Kathleen Marshall. It is a celebration of the human spirit, an irresistible, eloquent, raunchy, bawdy, knee-slapping, uproarious, hell of a good time!
This is not a restoration of the 1960 Broadway production, but a newly imagined one with songs from the original score by Meredith Willson adapted by Michael Rafter, and a new book and lyrics by Dick Scanlan. The musical score is spectacular.
The story concentrates on the love story between Molly and JJ Brown and her single-minded need to help others in stress. She and JJ meet in Leadville, Colorado where he is the foreman for a silver mine. The silver has lost its value and the mine is looking to close, but JJ and Molly together tap into gold in the mine and strike it rich. David Aron Damane, as JJ, is the perfect sparring partner to Beth Malone’s Molly. He is tough and grounded and a romantic who will steal your heart. They compliment one another wonderfully. This is their story from rags to riches and how it destroys the marriage but not the love.
The supporting cast is tremendous. The singing is stunning, from raunchy bar room to Italian opera, and the dancing, beautiful, muscular, acrobatic, and uses the full stage at the lovely Abron Arts Center at its best.
The show begins when you enter the theatre and get your program. With the program, you will also get a card with the name and bio of one of the passengers of the Titanic. Also on the card is your bio. You are the person who will be at Pier 54 on April 18, 1912, when the ship, Carpathia, arrives with the Titanic survivors. There were thousands there that day calling out the names of those they hoped to see come off the Carpathia. This moment sent shivers.
Molly Brown championed the poor, the underdog, the immigrant. She had such intense strength and confidence at a time when women were not expected, nor obliged to have such feelings about themselves.
Beth Malone’s amazing memorable portrayal of Molly Brown is one that goes into the proverbial scorecard that is kept on performances that everyone should see. She is a mix of wildcat, sprawling fun, and Pollyanna optimism, of no-nonsense straightforward honesty, and take no prisoners’ confidence. She is a broad in the best sense!
Simply put, this is one damn good night at the theatre. SO GO, JUST GO. GO ALONE OR GO WITH A FRIEND, IT DOESN’T MATTER. Because you will be part of a community with the rest of your fellow audience members that will experience one of those rare theatrical events when a whole audience is moved together. Molly and John and the entire cast have saved a place on the lifeboat for you, a place where, like them, you will not sink, you will soar. This is your chance to see a Broadway size production in an intimate off-broadway space.
The Unsinkable Molly Brown, music and lyrics by Meredith Willson adapted by Michael Rafter. and a new book, based on the original book by Richard Morris, and new lyrics by Dick Scanlan. directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall.
Cast: Beth Malone (Molly), David Aron Damane (JJ), Whitney Bashor (Julia), Omar Lopez-Cepero (Vincenzo), Alex Gibson (Erich), and Paolo Montalban (Arthur), Kaitlyn Davidson, Tyrone Davis Jr, Gregg Goodbrod, Michael Halling, Karl Josef Ko, Nikka Graff Lanzarone, Kate Marilley, Shina Ann Morris, Keven Quillon, and Coco Smith.
Production: scenic design by Brett Banakis; costume design is by Sky Switser, with gowns for Beth Malone by Paul Tazewell; lighting design is by Peter Kaczorowski; sound design is by Walter Trarbach; music direction is by Joey Chancey. The stage manager is Victoria Navarro.
The Unsinkable Molly Brown plays at Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand Street (F to Delancey Street; J or M to Essex Street; D or B to Grand Street).
Run Time: 150 minutes including 15 minute intermission