Music by David Shire
Lyrics and Direction by Richard Maltby, Jr.
Music Direction by Kevin Stites
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited
In the final show of the York Theatre Company’s Musicals in Mufti Winter 2016 Series, “Starting Here, Starting Now” passes the test of time with high marks as it explores the trials and tribulations of love, relationships, and self- discovery with a diverse compilation of lesser known songs by the familiar team of Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire. The 26 musical numbers are organized in a revue format and presented by a triad of actor/singers who integrate from solo, to duet, to trio producing tight harmonies and interesting dramatic and comedic situations. Mr. Maltby has the unique ability to make each song a complete story with clever and revealing lyrics that allow the performer to access their emotional core. He might be described as an upbeat, optimistic Sondheim without bowing to melancholy to convey the message. Mr. Shire’s music is a kaleidoscope of styles, producing easy, lilting, lyric tempos or sometimes creating forceful, driving rhythms that reflect emotional turbulence.
The order of the musical numbers has no distinct continuity except for the fact that all the songs in Act 1 deal with relationships and Act 2 is devoted to self-awareness. Songs flow easily from one to the next but in an attempt for a more contemporary staging, might be bridged together musically with no interruption. Also the production is heteronormative for this day and age and might be better served by adding another male actor, since the material is very accommodating to any type of relationship.
The cast of three are all talented and capable as they assume specific characters for each of their musical stories, demonstrating familiar feelings of insecurity, fear, regret, joy, delight and disappointment. They must be commended for undertaking the amount of music and staging involved in this production and will undoubtedly feel more comfortable with every performance. Krystal Joy Brown provides a strong Broadway belt to “What about Today” and also handles “Crossword Puzzle” with great comedic timing and emotional control. Soprano Charlotte Maltby adds her clear timber to “Autumn” and “Song of Me” while adding her manic charm to “I’m Going to Make You Beautiful.” Bobby Conte Thornton provides an intense, dramatic interpretation of “I Don’t Remember Christmas,” a sincere, powerful “I Hear Bells,” and an easy, pleasing vulnerability in “Flair.” These three are generous performers and understand collaboration as they fuse their individual skills to become a theatrical force.
Musical director Kevin Stites on piano, accompanied by Danny Weller on bass, guide the singers through the evening with ease. At times tempos seemed off and that musical drive reminiscent of Weil was lacking in certain numbers. This is not an easy show to master and no one should miss the opportunity to immerse themselves in the intricate music of David Shire and the intelligent lyrics of Richard Maltby, Jr.