Off-Broadway Review: “Matthew McConaughey vs. The Devil” at the New York Musical
“Matthew McConaughey vs The Devil: An American Myth” is yet another version of the story based on the fictional character “Faust” here set in Hollywood and dealing with an unsuccessful actor who makes a deal with Satan’s agent to sell his soul in return for winning an Oscar. It is assumed that this musical was created as a parody, lampooning and mocking the actor’s habits, talent, and career. This is probably where the project goes wrong. Mr. McConaughey was a very successful actor long before he won the Academy Award for best actor, with an impressive list of credits, therefore there is nothing to mock. The jokes become senseless even with a long stretch of the imagination.
It is truly amazing that the producers could assemble such a stellar cast that is far superior to the material. The book by Carrie Morgan is finagled, shallow and implausible which tends to sabotage most of the attempted comedy. Jon Quesenberry’s music fairs much better, offering a variety of styles, both interesting and entertaining always assisting the remarkable vocals. Their combined effort at producing lyrics is mostly successful, often helping to move the plot along with an engaging and amusing approach. Director Tom Caruso moves the action along at a steady pace but starts to lag in the last thirty minutes, especially during the extensive dream sequence that comes much too late in the production to captivate interest. Costumes by Daryl A. Stone are appropriate, clever, and imaginative and serve the actors and production well.
Now for the incredible cast that is the sole and soul reason to see this current incarnation. It is a pleasure to just sit and savor their fine craft while relishing their impressive vocal ability. Wayne Wilcox excels in the manifestation of Mr. McConaughey with puppy dog vulnerability, comedic flexibility and a clear strong vocal. As the Devil’s agent, Lesli Margherita is as powerful as the bright red dress she wears perfectly and is a seductive, facetious villain with a broad Broadway belt. Max Crumm gives a sincere and honest portrayal of best friend Woody and Jennifer Blood chisels out a determined, faithful yet vulnerable Penny with a pure soprano. The qualified ensemble does all it can to ensure support despite the pedestrian choreography of Billy Griffen.
The major problem with this production is that the content fails to engage the audience or energize the hard-working cast. It may pass as being slightly entertaining but lacks any substance that may make it memorable.
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY VS. THE DEVIL
The production stars Jennifer Blood, Max Crumm, Lesli Margherita, Wayne Wilcox as Matthew, and the ensemble includes Cameisha Cotton, Koh Mochizuki, David Park, Frankie Shin, Riza Takahashi, and Nicole Vande Zande.
The production features scenic design by James Fenton, costume design by Daryl Stone, and lighting design by Zach Blane. Andrew Keister is the sound designer and Victoria Navarro is the production stage manager. Kampfire PR is the publicist. Production photos by Michael Kushner.
The production will run through Sunday, August 16, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. at The Acorn Theater at Theatre Row, located at 410 West 42nd Street (between 9th and 10th Avenues on the south side of 42nd Street). General Admission tickets are $29.75. For reservations and information (including cast and creative team) visit http://www.nymf.org/festival/2017-events/matthew-mcconaughey-vs-devil/ or call 212-352-3101. Running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.