Oscar Wilde might be turning in his grave, or at least twitching – that is if he has seen a certain NYMF production appropriately titled “Dorian Gray” a musical loosely based on his notorious provocative novel. There is a slight chance he might be flattered that young thespian artists would be interested and intent on creating this version but certainly would not condone the execution nor the altered adaptation.
Director Christen Mandracchia states in the program that she wanted the audience to see “suffering artists” being engaged and empowered by Wilde’s story. She admonishes, “It is noted that before the lights go down, you may notice people onstage reading the novel. Listen to what they are saying. Listen to those who are rejected. The story belongs to them.” I did listen, carefully, since I thought it was an odd choice and ill fitted beginning to such a dark story. What I heard was actors bursting out in song informing us that these “snippets” would be from the show. There were also actors practicing soft shoe routines, conversing with the audience about who they knew in the cast and even planning on where to party after the show. Yes, some carried the novel that no one seemed to have an interest in. All this activity of breaking the fourth wall before the show began, for no apparent reason, seemed disrespectful to the theatrical stage and cast an atmosphere of pretentious, amateur theater. Her direction is pedestrian and misguided.
Christopher Dayett started this endeavor as a subject for his graduate thesis. Thirteen months later with musical collaborator Kevin Mucchetti this latest incarnation has arrived. The story is elementary because of the notoriety of the novel, but Mr. Dayett manages to complicate matters and loses focus, which results in a laborious book. The music is dark but ineffective, unable to create an impact but Mr. Mucchetti, who also serves as musical director, is able to sustain interest with his fetching orchestrations. Lyrics do not serve the story or move the plot forward and at times detract from the music.
The cast is uneven with Brad DeLeone (Dorian Gray) and Topher Layton (Basil Hallward) standing out both vocally and demonstrating the craft of carving out characters with interest and edge. The vocals of the remaining cast are less than adequate with performances being over the top caricatures. This product might be well suited for a thesis but is not yet ready as a professional production for the New York stage. It is still meritorious that such a young group of thespians invested their time and talents in such a risky venture which, hopefully, evoked a stimulating learning experience.
“Dorian Gray” features Brad DeLeone as Dorian Gray, Lee Cortopassi as Lord Henry Wotton, Topher Layton as Basil Hallward, and Maura McColgan as Sibyl Vane/Beth Wotton. Rounding out the cast are Courtney Boches, Kevin Durkin, Carter Horton, Tyreese Kadle, Brie Knight, and Samantha Solar.
The production features scenic and lighting design by Christen Mandracchia, costume design by Courtney Boches, sound design by Greg Boulden, and props design and production stage management by Lauren Davenport. Production photos by Greg Boulden.
The production ran through Friday, August 14, 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/dorian-gray or call 212-352-3101. Running time is 2 hours.