“The Mapmaker’s Opera” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The PTC Performance Space (Closed on Wednesday July 16, 2014)

July 12, 2014 | NY Musical Theatre | Tags:
Book and Lyrics by Victor Kazan
Music by Kevin Purcell
Directed by Donald Brenner
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

“The Mapmakers Opera,” currently presented at The PTC Performance Space as part of the ongoing NYMF, is a solid effort to adapt the profound and beautiful novel of the same title by Bea Gonzalez for the stage. The results are commendable but as with any new musical project pitfalls are numerous and the need exists to focus a bit more on the intent and plot without straying into meaningless distraction. The cast shines and makes it worth seeing the production in its infancy just to hear their refined vocal ability.

Joel Perez is delightful as he explores the many facets of his character using his strong, clear and effective baritone. Madeleine Featherby is charming and a great match for Mr. Perez, with a pure, focused vocal exhibiting a rich quality and good blend. Natalia Lepore Hagan contributes almost too much to this incarnation but seems to do it all well. Her rendition of “Someday Soon” as an Act 1 finale is superb with a fierce characterization and a stalwart vocal. It would be nice to see this character developed and defined into a larger role. Tony Chiroldes is magnificent in every aspect of his lively performance. He develops a real character and manages to seize every opportunity to translate his emotion to the audience without missing a beat. Mr. Chiroldes is a wonderful storyteller and his musical duet “Men, Feo y Fuerte” with Mr. Perez is a show stopper. This reviewer wishes he was incorporated into the story as a narrator and commentator allowing the plot to focus on more relevant material.

The music is generous but perhaps too ambitious, trying to capture Spanish and Mexican styles especially when accompanying vocals. Perhaps it would fare better if these styles were used for dance and interludes only. The lyrics are telling, precise, and informative in most numbers but lack the exuberance and certain flair to consistently impress. Vocal arrangements are somewhat lacking in interest and harmony. Costume design by Laura Crow is impeccable, remarkably capturing the class, period and place, producing a visual gift: Brava! Choreography is plentiful and can be left at that.

At this stage of development this musical appears uneven and perhaps tries to tackle too much that was easily achievable on the pages of the novel. It is a beautiful love story taking place during the Mexican Revolution and maybe that is all it needs to be. Perhaps with a better focus on character and motivation – elements that successfully drive the plot (rather than the storyline pushing the characters uphill) – “The Mapmaker’s Opera” would provide a more balanced core.