REVIEW: The Evolution of Mann - 2018 Original Off-Broadway Cast

rainbowhigh wrote on February 21, 2019

Having enjoyed an extended run at the Cell Theatre off-Broadway in late 2017, Douglas J. Cohen and Dan Elish's endearing boutique musical The Evolution of Mann celebrated the release of its highly-anticipated cast recording this past week. It is currently available on iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon.

Starring the incredible Max Crumm (Grease;Disaster!) as troubled leading man Henry Mann, Allie Trimm (13; Bye Bye Birdie) as Christine/Tamar/Sheila/Others, and Leslie Hiatt as Henry's best friend Gwen, The Evolution of Mann begins with a simple premise: author Henry must find a date to bring to his ex-fiancé Sheila's wedding. As with any romantic comedy, chaos ensues. Under the direction of esteemed New York director Joe Barros (Gigi, Beaches, Cagney, Bastard Jones), the three-person cast shines in this piece, whether it be Max Crumm's neurotic portrayal of Henry, Allie Trimm's sheer versatility and vocal prowess, or Leslie Hiatt's fierce warmth.

Although it harkens back to early musical comedies, Douglas J. Cohen's witty score/lyrics and Dan Elish's amusing book keep The Evolution of Mann incredibly fresh, tackling the struggles of single life in modern society. Despite the abundance of highly entertaining, clever numbers, such as the ridiculous yet adorable The Tale of the Otter, the manic What's the Matter With Henry?, and the downright crazy Hard, the show soars most in its tender, poignant moments. Christine's ballad It's Only a First Date is possibly the highlight of the show; sung brilliantly by Allie Trimm, the number looks into the uncertainty and anxiety that comes with a first date – things that deeply resonate with us all. In fact, the cast recording features a bonus track of Max Crumm singing the same song from a queer perspective.

The similarly moving The Unromantic Things, this time touchingly sung by Leslie Hiatt, sees Gwen explaining to Henry that loving relationships often involve finding the beauty and heart in "the unromantic things" instead of just the stereotypical gestures of love. Personally, the stirring number Keeping My Eye on the Ball, sung ardently by Max Crumm, affects me the most, ending the show on an unresolved, yet optimistic note. In general, the show itself is genius, hilarious, and original, quickly earning a spot amongst my favourites from recent years.

It also doesn't hurt that this recording in particular has been expertly produced. The sound mixing is great, showing off music director Vadim Feichtner's (Falsettos, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) expertly crafted orchestrations. Bringing his simplistic, yet lush sound to the score, Feichtner creates all the excitement and eclecticism that one would want in a boutique musical such as this one. Moreover, the song selection has been expertly done, including just the right amount of dialogue in order to make the story clear, but not enough to give major spoilers away.

All in all, this cast recording is definitely one for the 5-star collection. Not only is the show itself brilliant, but the cast and production are simply outstanding; I will admit that I am simply in love with it. I would highly recommend that all theatre folk look into the show and I hope that this fantastic cast recording will open the doors to the long, successful future that the show so deserves.

rainbowhigh wrote on February 21, 2019

Typo: I meant late 2018 instead of 2017!

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