Review: Adrift in Macao
One might be forgiven for stumbling over the name of Adrift in Macao composer Peter Melnick -- in the liner notes, he's even quoted referring to himself as "Richard Rodgers' 'other' grandson," an oblique reference to his famed cousin Adam Guettel. It's unclear on the basis of the album whether this state of affairs will continue. While far from a major work (one could argue that all three of Guettel's scores rank with the work of Sondheim -- but let's stop inciting a family feud, shall we?), the score to this noir pastiche is an old-fashioned, light, infectious piece that will play well in regional theatre.
The lyrics, on the other hand, are entirely modern--parodies of torch songs, songs with lyrics supposedly improvised on the spot, songs about themselves--in the manner that's taken over Broadway in the last decade or so. Fortunately, slumming lyricist Christopher Durang has sufficient skill and talent to bring most of them off ("Rick's Song" is a shaky mashup of "The Song That Goes Like This" and "The Diva's Lament" from Spamalot, but "Pretty Moon Over Macao," "In a Foreign City," and "The Chase" all score).
Unfortunately, this still means it's at best a matter of taste; one wonders whether the audience that wants to hear Melnick's score is the same as the audience that wants to hear Durang's lyrics. And when it comes to the weird "Asian" numbers for "Tempura" (Orville Mendoza), one wonders how many people want to hear any of it at all.
The cast is uniformly strong: Mendoza, who has the most floppo material, manages to sparkle with natural charm. Rachel deBenedet and Alan Campbell have the rare treat of playing (with gusto) romantic leads with better and funnier songs than their comic foils; still, Michele Ragusa and Will Swenson (the latter as "Rick Shaw"; ugh) acquit themselves well.
And whatever is lacking in individual numbers, all can be forgiven when the cast breaks into the charming title song or, better, the intoxicating "Ticky Ticky Tock" finale. In fact, if there's anything that inspires confidence in the future of Melnick and Durang as a songwriting duo, it's this simple, silly, pleasingly anachronistic sing-a-long for the company.
Peter Bioden wrote on July 13, 2008
I don't think that Adam's works are "up there" with Sondheim's. That's going a little to far. -P
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Adrift in Macao - 2007 Original Off-Broadway Cast Spamalot Christopher Durang Adam Guettel Richard Rodgers Stephen Sondheim Rachel deBenedet Alan Campbell Orville Mendoza Michele Ragusa Peter Melnick Will Swenson Toggle Additional (9)