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First Nighter: "Evening-1910" a Valuable Musical Evening-2016

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If you're the kind of musical lover who gets discerning every once in a while, preferring something other than one boffo number after another--not that there's anything wrong with it--then the musical for you is Evening-1910, being presented by Axis Company at 1 Sheridan Square.

When I watched it at a press preview and after maybe 60 or 70 minutes it ended, I was raring for it to start all over again. Immediately. For that urgent need, I offer eager thanks to Axis Company head Randy Sharp, also responsible for direction, music and lyrics, and longtime Blondie guitarist Paul Carbonara, for music and lyrics.

Notice no credit for book writer. That's because Evening-1910 is sung-through. That's how Sharp and Carbonara tell their enchanting tale, which, to be truthful, is ever so slightly vague. When it begins under David Zeffren's nocturnal lighting (and stays that way throughout), Sharp and Carbonara are good at establishing the milieu--Manhattan just after the turn-of-the 19th century into the 20th--but otherwise hold the dramatic cards close to their chests.

They tell us it's 1910, but just maybe it's 1911, because there's a reference to the Triangle Shirtwaist disaster of that year. But it's only a passing nod. The authors move quickly on to a young photographer who's intrigued by cinematography--by early cameras and kinescopes, if that's the correct word. He becomes involved with a family called Spencer--one of them a rather distinguished gent with a walking stick--who are prepared to finance early movie making.

At least that seems to be the motivation for the activity that includes the strolling about of the women of New York City, some of whom are upright citizens and some of whom are fancy ladies.

Since there are eight members of the cast--five women and three men--the bawdy ladies of the 1910 evening and the more presentable women are played by the same four who sometimes wear Karl Ruckdeschel's floor-length outfits with their skirts dusting the floor and sometimes with the skirts hitched up to reveal suggestively flouncy petticoats.

The Sharp-Carbonara intention seems not so much to tell a specific detailed story but rather, as the title implies, to present a slice-of-life illustration. Martha Clarke adherents might find her Belle Epoque, based on the life of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, similar in purpose.

The team's approach here is to keep everything from stopping to settle on one aspect. Not only do their rhapsodic melodies keep scenting the air--keep mutating from one tune to the next--but, courtesy of choreographer Lynn Mancinelli, the cast's movements never stop. The patterns remain fluid. They melt and meld like waves easing onto the shore and then silently receding. The result is beautiful to watch, simultaneously lulling and stimulating.

The cast members, all of whom sing elegantly and move gracefully, are Shira Averbuch, Emily Kratter, Justin McEllroy, Lynn Mancinelli, Stephanie Lynne Mason, James Scheider, Michael Sheehy and Katie Rose Summerfield. The musicians, playing in sight, yet in the shadows, are Samuel Quiggins on cello, Nick Stubblefield at the piano, Frederika Krier on violin and music director Carbonara on, of course, guitar--which, incidentally, wasn't necessarily a prominent instrument 100 years back. But so what?

It may be that the above description will sound familiar to some musical aficionados. There's a reason for that. In 2014 Sharp and Carbonara offered Solitary Light, which was pointedly about the Triangle Shirtwaist tragedy. Some of the material in Evening-1910 is lifted from the previous work.

I didn't get to see that one. So I can't comment on how much Evening-1910 is like Solitary Light. I can say that little here has to do with the 1911 tragedy, which is now a small patch in the current musical quilt. It may be that in reconsidering Solitary Light, Sharp and Carbonara decided there have been enough properties focused on the troubling event and thought it wiser to broaden the panorama.

What I can say is that I've been assured Evening-1910 is a new piece, and as such I highly recommend you go. If you do, I might see you there, because I'm certainly returning to be mesmerized by it once again. I'm also waiting with bated breath for any recording the creators put together. And that, too, will receive repeated attention on my appropriate equipment.

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