Off-Broadway Review: “Bastard Jones” at the cell

Off-Broadway Review: “Bastard Jones” at the cell (Extended through Sunday July 16, 2017)
Book and Lyrics by Marc Acito
Music and Lyrics by Amy Engelhardt
Directed by Marc Acito
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

There are numerous reasons to see “Bastard Jones,” the new musical now playing at the cell, but topping the list is to purely enjoy an evening of raucous fun. Vying for that acclaimed position would be the prodigious cast that provides the farcical, sometimes titillating escapades of Tom Jones based on the irreverent novel by Henry Fielding. Next the book by Marc Acito, music by Amy Engelhardt with their combined effort to produce the lyrics, are as exhilarating as the performances, adding to the exuberant atmosphere that reverberates throughout the evening. Mr. Acito has deftly directed his motley cast with a distinct madcap style, never losing sight of the underlying affirmative message of human rights. Throughout the evening the audience may be reminded of the timelessness of the story when comparing situations and actions to current issues and tensions.

The inclusivity of this production is remarkable and certainly needs to be recognized and applauded. It is admirable but unpretentious, human not preposterous and a reflection of an authentic society. Race, color, gender and physical disabilities are set aside escalating the importance of a nonjudgmental creative arts forum.

Evan Ruggiero gives a remarkable indefatigable portrayal of Tom Jones, searching, wanting, needing and living life to the fullest while conquering every obstacle that may come before him. His voice is infectious, pure and smooth and his performance is honest and natural. Elena Wang is a demure Sophia Shepherd but determined and calculating with a powerful soprano to compliment her character. Their duet “I Am There” is a highlight of the show and exhibits fine vocal craftsmanship. Crystal Lucas Perry flaunts a bawdy Lady Bellaston with a ribald rendition of “Have Another Oyster, Dear” to open the indecorous second act. The entire cast each stands on their own and embraces the word ensemble with undeniable support and understanding of the material and the prominence of comradery.

Do not miss this limited engagement which certainly deserves a continued life in the vibrant New York theater scene. Spend a pleasant summer evening smiling, laughing, enjoying a drink and supporting an outstanding group of artists opening their minds to change and their hearts to assimilation. Profits from this production are being donated to Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Fund.