By Holli Harms
When you are in the middle of a rainstorm you often don’t realize just how bad it is, just how wet you are, and how uncomfortable it all feels. When you are in the middle of a production working with like-minded performers, all trying to tell the story and convey their characters’ emotions, you may encounter the same kind of loss of realization at how much of a rainstorm you are in.
No one starts out wanting to be part of something that is not up to par. All hope that the art that they are creating is going to be transformative, entertaining, and by all means fun for the audience. So I give the cast of Magic Box credit for their hope and tenacity in a show whose story is a discombobulated attempt at weaving together burlesque, musical theater and I think magic, and instead of a weave, it is a smashing crashing jumble. We never get invested in the story or the characters as there are simply too many holes in the script.
There are several performances that shine in the evening, where the singing and dancing are exceptional but they are lost to the backward storytelling of twentieth-century male bravado.
Magic Box is a Cinderella story retold, or any of those fairy tales where the young pretty girl is motherless and sometimes fatherless. Here Laura ( Cambria Klein) the motherless and fatherless child is looking to get her deceased father, Jack’s, Magic Box. The box seems to be attracting mostly evildoers only none of the characters are really evil, and the incompetent magician Charlie (Dani Wergiles) is the actual owner of this Magic Box. Laura believes, as the daughter of Jack, she deserves the box.
The production is listed as sexy, but what it was to this reviewer was a misogynistic male idea of the power of women i.e. our “Magic Boxes.” There is even a musical number about the female Magic Box and the control it has over men and society.
There are some songs that stood out, “I’m Just a Tattered Magician…Loneliness is all I have in Life,” a lovely song about loneliness, and Laura’s song ( Klein) “I wonder what my mother was like…” is a beautiful heart-wrenching song for all who lost their mother when they were much too young to remember her. I was thinking as I listened to these wonderful songs, “Okay, here we go.” But alas.
Pianist and Music Director Seth Weinstein, who also did the arrangements, and drummer Joel Oramas were the real magic of the evening. With nothing but those two instruments, they delivered a full-bodied musical event. Bravo.
I hope better for this show, for the performers. I believe in the magic of theater and that princes can often be born from frogs. Just sometimes the birth needs more coaxing and crafting.
SCIALLI PRODUCTIONS Presents the World Premiere of
MAGIC BOX (Five magicians. Five agendas. One magic box. Who will open it?)
Written by TONY SCIALLI, Directed, and Choreographed by LIZ PICCOLI
With: Cambria Klein, Dani Wergiles, Sonya Hernández, Kevin Luís, Matthew James Fitzgerald, Kristina Dizon as Ensemble/Understudy, and Marcel McKenzie as Ensemble/Understudy.
Executive produced by Jeremy Handelman, the production features music direction/arrangement by Seth Weinstein, and costume design by Jess Gersz
THE TRIAD THEATER, 158 West 72nd Street, NYC