“Motel Rasdell” at the Midtown International Fringe Festival at the June Havoc Theatre (Closed July 29, 2013)

Book by Christina Bracco and Danielle DeMatteo
Music and Lyrics by Danielle DeMatteo
Directed by Donnie Kehr
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The new musical “Motel Rasdell” debuting at MITF has a talented cast that works enthusiastically to overcome the blatant obstacles that are set before them. This new work offers nothing new or innovative as it attempts to continue development. The music is repetitive and derivative and to use the old tired theater cliché “vamps till death” with no evident purpose. Some musical numbers may be deleted since they are not plot driven and deemed as unnecessary inventory. The book is weak and the plot thin introducing characters we have seen time and time again. Direction and choreography uses the space and limited resources well which provides some entertaining moments when the opportunity arises.

The ensemble cast for the most part is well balanced and vocally competent to skillfully handle the simple bland score. They do a fine job representing the typical all American family and the sleazy, motley crew of prostitutes and drug dealers who inhabit the motel. Better character delineation would have provided more audience attention and connection which might have helped the otherwise inferior book; however, it is difficult to place blame on the actors or the director.

These actors are certainly focused and astute, for at this particular performance electrical problems resulted in lights dimming on and off erratically, sometimes leaving them in darkness. Miraculously, these actors never missed beat. Ironically the best line in the show was when one character stated “we haven’t even paid the electric bill” and the impromptu response was “I can see that.” Stand outs in this cast were Emma Hunton as Eve and Tim Young as Matt, each giving intelligent and emotional interpretation of their characters and deftly performing vocals always reaching the audience and connecting with each other. Sami Horneff does well in her dual roles as goody-two-shoes daughter Nancy and punky prostitute Lacey. Understudy Emily Larger does fine stepping into the role Jane at this performance, competently capturing her character and being vocally satisfying. Evan Rees as musical director on keyboard and Mark Verdino on Bass are accomplished musicians that provide excellent support. Hopefully this incarnation of “Motel Rasdell” will provide some pertinent insight and information for the creative team to continue the process of development.