Jason Clark
December 11, 2007 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Glorious Ones

Current Status
In Season
run date
Marc Kudisch
Graciela Daniele
Lynn Ahrens

We gave it a C

The last place you’d expect to see and hear some of the saltiest, lewdest acts this side of South Park would be New York’s Lincoln Center Theater. However, The Glorious Ones, a musical chronicling the early comic tradition known as commedia dell’arte, would make George Carlin green with envy, and one of his infamous seven dirty words even makes a repeated appearance here (hint: they come in a pair). This is absolutely the type of show where the phrase ”broad strokes” has two meanings.

With its rustic wooden sets, tattered costumes, and strategically placed trunk, The Glorious Ones calls to mind a flatulent version of The Fantasticks. But The Glorious Ones has little identity of its own, despite an impressive pedigree: composer Stephen Flaherty, librettist/lyricist Lynn Ahrens (Ragtime, Once on This Island), and director Graciela Daniele (Annie Get Your Gun). The seven principal characters represent the archetypes for the physical comedy stylings of the era, and many of the performances do transcend the wobbly, undernourished story, particularly the fetching Natalie Venetia Belcon (in a lusty portrayal miles away from her breakout turn as the comically put-upon Gary Coleman in Avenue Q) and the nimble John Kassir, who seems right at home in the show’s 16th-century setting. And one would be hard-pressed to find a more reliable leading man than Marc Kudisch. Playing Flaminio, the troupe’s hard-drinking, fatally stubborn leader, he is an inspired clown, earthy romantic foil, and powerful song stylist rolled into one, with exactly the brand of leading-man qualities required for such a role.

The strange hybrid of lowbrow tomfoolery and serious drama that eventually unfolds, however, becomes too tall an order when the smutty antics of its first half (which includes a vividly illustrated paean to, ahem, pony rides and piccolo playing) make way for a more sober reflection of artists trying to change with the times. Sadly, its most indelible scene is also the most coincidental: a union stagehand inspects a trash can as its long-gone performers look on, before slowly carrying it offstage, a gesture that speaks more directly to the show’s relativity to our times than all of its much more labored attempts along the way. C
(Tickets: 212-239-6200 or Telecharge.com)

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