Wednesday, May 13, 2009

For Lovers Only (Love Songs... Nothing But Love Songs)


Created by Christopher Scott and Ken Lundie from a concept by Nancy Friday. Dir./Chor. Christopher Scott. New World Stages. (CLOSED)

With the exception of AP's Jennifer Farrar, who loved the show, just about the only nice thing critics can find to say about For Lovers Only, a revue of about 90 love songs, is that the cast is decent, sometimes very good, and deserves better. Most critics don't like the lack of plot, number of songs, and unflattering costumes, and agree that the show would be better suited to a cruise or hotel. In Andy Propst's review for Theatermania, he writes what many critics echo--"Ultimately, audience members seeking a truly romantic evening might find snuggling on the couch with a well-chosen iTunes playlist infinitely more satisfying."

Associated Press A
(Jennifer Farrar) Listening to highlights of more than 90 famous love songs in less than two hours is like getting a lot of icing and a little cake. Such is the tantalizing effect of the new off-Broadway musical revue "For Lovers Only (Love Songs ... Nothing But Love Songs)." Combining the considerable talents of five accomplished singers and two hardworking pianists, this pastiche is a witty homage to familiar 20th century songs about love and romance, selected from the American songbook and spotlighting Broadway shows, movies and popular music. The cast members, all with plenty of experience both on and off Broadway, display easy polish and sophistication in their performances. Glenn Seven Allen, Monica L. Patton, Dominique Plaisant, Trisha Rapier and Kevin Vortmann each bring their own finesse to the ensemble. The musical director, Ken Lundie, is a charming presence, energetically playing an upright piano onstage, along with Mark Akens on a second keyboard.

Theatermania D+
(Andy Propst) Beyond the brevity of the selections and plot issues, there are other difficulties with the show's construction. For example, while the creators understand that up-tempo numbers must be interspersed with ballads and slower tunes, songs are too often put alongside one another in ways that jar. For example, the abrupt shift from the operatic "And This Is My Beloved" into the popish "What I Did For Love" almost causes whiplash. Thankfully, the many selections in the show are delivered not only capably, but also sometimes commandingly. Kevin Vortmann displays a surprising versatility throughout, offering up not only a few silkily smooth bars of "People Will Say We're in Love," but also a giddily exuberant take on the 1950s doo-wop hit, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" Glenn Seven Allen, who adopts a sort of ironic and aloof demeanor and delivery style early on, displays both a powerful voice and genuine passion in "This Nearly Was Mine."

Talkin' Broadway D
(Matthew Murray) It doesn't take a world-class mathematician to determine that if you cram 80-plus songs into a show that runs under two hours (that's including an intermission) you won't have time to perform them complete or establish dramatic or emotional contexts for them. This basic point, however, eluded director-choreographer Scott and musical director Lundie, and their malfunctioning iPod shuffle of a revue makes it seem that they are on a two-man quest to make some of the world's greatest compositions sound as terrible as possible... Because of the songs' glancing treatments (I timed about 5.7 seconds of "Baby, It's Cold Outside") and Peter R. Feuchtwanger's nothingness-nightclub set, the entire evening is little more than a drive-by cheese-tasting. At least the cast makes the most of what they're given. Glenn Seven Allen, Kevin Vortmann, Monica L. Patton, Dominique Plaisant, and Trisha Rapier are all talented, passionate singers and game participants in this hopeless enterprise. One wishes Scott had given them characters or throughlines to bolster their performances - the closest we get are the men trading off, apparently at random, between Patton and Plaisant (and once, as a joke, ending up in each other's arms), and Rapier's great unrequited love for Lundie at the piano. But even so, they're as nice-sounding and as entertaining as they can be with nothing to anchor their numbers.

The New York Times F
(Stephen Holden) The revue’s most misbegotten sequences are devoted to sex (“That Old Black Magic,” “Witchcraft,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”) and betrayal (“If You Hadn’t but You Did,” “All in Love Is Fair”), in which the performers demonstrate neither romantic chemistry nor real fury, despite the wielding of a gun. “For Lovers Only” is a victim of a hackneyed revue format that confuses posing with acting, in which anonymous musical arrangements obliterate any serious attempts at interpretation. Early in Act II the tension relaxes enough to allow Ms. Plaisant to deliver a reasonably affecting rendition of the Carpenters’ hit “Superstar.” But for the most part the songs in “For Lovers Only” are squashed into the theatrical equivalent of elevator music.

Backstage F
(Adam R. Perlman) I freely admit I'm no fan of the format, but revues of familiar material can work just dandy. The best introduce interesting juxtapositions, inventive arrangements, and deeply invested interpretations. There's no possibility of such simple pleasures here. The first act is wall-to-wall medley, racing through snippets of songs so quickly that neither performer nor audience can do anything but let it all wash over. The second act slows down but adds no insight. We segue from Richard Rodgers to Jonathan Larson to Amanda McBroom—yes, they do "The Rose"!—and it all sounds the same... For what's on stage, the blame must rest with costumer Bernard Grenier, whose outfits are unflattering in color and cut, and creators Christopher Scott, who provides the cardboard direction and choreography, and Ken Lundie, who plays piano decently, sings poorly, and hatched the elevator-music arrangements.

Variety F
(Steven Suskin) The staging is the sort in which one couple sings while another couple mime talking in the background, and often you'd rather hear what the upstage pair is saying. The choreography reaches its nadir when piano player Ken Lundie is instructed to stand up and do a dance break to "You and Me," from "Victor/Victoria." Lundie, who helped devise the affair, has a big synthetic smile and sees fit to sing duets occasionally. He is joined by a synthesizer, which sounds especially synthetic and, on occasion, like an organ grinder without his monkey... The first-act malaise is alleviated periodically by the singing of Monica L. Patton, who deserves a better showcase. Twenty minutes into the show, the patchwork format is interrupted to allow Patton to sing, in its entirety, "I Got Love." But the respite is only temporary. Patrons who stick around for the second act will find that the others get at least one chance to demonstrate their capabilities, but it's a long and difficult night for the entire cast. And the audience.

New York Post F
(Frank Scheck) Well before the closing chords of "For Lovers Only (Love Songs . . . Nothing But Love Songs)" -- a musical revue of 80-plus love songs performed by five overemoting singers -- you may find yourself reconsidering your love life. Or wanting to kick a dog on the way home.

AP A 13; Theatermania D+ 5; Talkin' Broadway D 4; The New York Times F 1; Backstage F 1; Variety F 1; New York Post F 1; TOTAL: 26/7 = 3.71 (D)

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