Off-Broadway Review: “ICON” at the New York Musical Festival at the Duke on 42nd Street

Off-Broadway Review: “ICON” at the New York Musical Festival at the Duke on 42nd Street (Closed Tuesday July 26, 2016)
Book by Sebastian Michael
Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Kaldor
Directed by Paul Stancato
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

A tiny foreign nation, a people’s princess, a gay prince, an arranged marriage, a scandal, a revolution, and a fire that destroys lovers’ hopes and dreams certainly makes interesting material for good old-fashioned musical theater. “Perfect,” the opening number of the new musical “Icon,” is derivative of Kander and Ebb in style and tempo and explodes onto the stage to set an exciting tone for the story of Princess Constance – a cross between Princesses Diana and Grace. Unfortunately, about halfway through the first Act, the book by Sebastian Michael seems to lose energy and becomes disjointed and uneven in paralleled storylines and the surprise ending too easily deduced. The music and lyrics by Jonathan Kaldor seem to waver in the direction of an Operetta. The beautiful, lush orchestrations by Igor Kogan and Athan Gousios, match the royal setting and elegant costumes by Liene Dobraja, but it is difficult not to crave the romantic sounds of a string section which is missing.

The overall cast is superb and does what they can to keep the plot moving at a good pace, but at times they are derailed by the hesitant direction of Paul Stancato, who fairs better with some entertaining choreography that livens up the production.

Charlotte Maltby gives a believable performance as the princess, with regal stature and a strong, clear voice exhibiting pure tonal quality. Sam Simahk has that vigorous quality of an operetta character, with a beautiful, full, dramatic and romantic vocal range. Tony Sheldon serves the character of Gualtieri with equal candor and discretion. Donna McKechnie gives us a respectful Miss Vine filled with charm, confidence and vulnerability but waiting nearly two hours to hear her wonderful familiar voice is unjustified with plenty of missed opportunities for musical numbers that could easily convey her emotional performance. At this stage of development there is a glimpse of a fine piece of musical theater but that comes with a great deal of work and many revisions. See for yourself and try to catch one of the final performances as part of the New York Musical Festival.