Review: “Impossible But True” at Franklin 820

Anthony J. Piccione

  • New York Theatre Critic

It’s Monday. You just got off work, after a stressful day. Maybe you need to do something to help you relax a bit, to help you get through the rest of your day. What do you do? Well, there are three things you can treat yourself to: A good drink, some musical theatre, and a trip back to the late 18th-century. Or at least, that would appear to be the suggestion of writer/composer Dan Furman, whose entertaining musical Impossible But True is now being revived in Brooklyn – and in quite a unique fashion – over the next month.

 Sing a few bars: Actors James Scheider, Mark Montague, and Charles Ouda play 18th century townsfolk in “Impossible but True,” a musical adaptation of the Rip Van Winkle tale playing at the Franklin820 bar. (Caleb Caldwell)

Sing a few bars: Actors James Scheider, Mark Montague, and Charles Ouda play 18th century townsfolk in “Impossible but True,” a musical adaptation of the Rip Van Winkle tale playing at the Franklin820 bar. (Caleb Caldwell)

This humorous, interactive musical tells the story of Rip Van Winkle, who gets lost as he goes off to fight in the Revolutionary War, only to return 20 years later to find that the family life he left behind has changed radically. Indeed, this story and character are quite familiar, to fans of American literature. However, what makes this show refreshing and exciting is that its musical score is full of enjoyable songs – including one, in which the audience is invited to participate in a sing-along – and funny dialogue that keeps the audience engaged and delighted.

Having premiered seven years ago at the 2011 Midtown International Theatre Festival, this site-specific production takes place in the Brooklyn tavern Franklin 820, with the performers singing and dancing in the middle of the venue, as customers watch from the sides. Under the direction of Cailin Heffernan, the show is staged masterfully, and leaves one with the impression that this show was meant to be produced in an immersive theatre setting. It’s almost impossible for the audience not to feel the excitement that comes with being so close to the actors, and while the musical itself is good on its own merits, the fact that it’s being produced here significantly adds to the entertainment value.

Of course, a show such as this wouldn’t be anything without a joyful and energetic cast. This entire ensemble knows how to get the audience involved and excited, consisting of Rob Langeder (Rip Van Winkle), Danielle Erin Rhodes (Rebecca Van Winkle), Jerome Harmann-Hardeman (Nicolaus Vedder/Reverend Gansevoort/Henrick Hudson), Stephanie Lynn Mason (Dame Rachel/Jenny), James Scheider (Ben/James Dolittle), Lieselotte Nickmans (Anna Van Onderdonk/Rip Jr.),  Mark Montague (Hubert), Charles Ouda (Ripje/Ghost of Judy), and Abigail Clyne (Chorus). I applaud each and every one of them from carrying this show and making it the experience that it is.

Full disclosure: The same day I was scheduled to review this show during the evening, I had also been traveling back to NYC from Connecticut in the morning, after a weekend visit. I have to admit that I’m quite relieved that this show took place in such a relaxed and comfortable setting, and that the show itself was as fun and entertaining as it was. From the second I walked in, I had a feeling that I’d be in for a good time, and I was proven right. One last thing worth noting to our readers, as well, is that the price of admission is free for anyone who comes in and gets a drink. So if you could use a good dose of fun to help you relax on any of the next few Mondays, as well, consider coming down to Franklin Avenue, and check this show out for yourself!

 “Impossible But True” runs at Franklin 820 on April 30th, May 7th, May 14th and May 21st at 7pm.