right) David Hess, Amanda Jane Cooper, and Price Waldman in The Streets
of New York
Streets of New York
Review by Deirdre Donovan
Charlotte Moore, director and co-guiding spirit of the Irish Repertory Company,
is to be congratulated on yet another fine production--this time her musical
adaptation of Dion Boucicault’s melodrama, The Streets of New York,
a theatrical piece that speaks to our unsettling times perfectly.
tucked in at the Francis J. Greenburger Mainstage through January 30th, it is a
holiday musical with a big heart and bigger message.
time The Streets of New York was staged at the Irish Rep was
in the wake of 9/11. So what better time than now, with omicron on our
minds, to revive this chestnut that celebrates the resilience of the human
Prologue opens, it’s the Panic of 1837—and all the banks in New York are
failing. We meet corrupt bank owner Gideon Bloodgood who plans to close
his bank and hightail it out of New York with his investors’ money. But
right before the banker can execute his plan, he commits a despicable
crime: he steals $100,000 from a sea captain named Patrick Fairweather
(Daniel J. Maldonado), who had entrusted the large sum to the banker for the
financial well-being of his wife and two babies. Fairweather, realizing
too late that Bloodgood is a crook and that his life savings is stolen,
tragically dies of apoplexy in Bloodgood’s private office.
The cast of The Streets of New York
there is one witness to this deed, namely Bloodgood’s cunning clerk (Justin
Keyes). And, as fate has it, this clerk finds Fairweather’s receipt
signed by Bloodgood within his arm’s reach, and astutely notes to the
audience: “Ha! Here is the receipt signed by Bloodgood. As a
general rule never destroy a receipt—there is no knowing when it might prove
watching a villain twist his moustache? Well, we watch plenty of
moustache-twisting in Act 1, as the melodrama leaps forward two decades to the
Panic of 1857. Bloodgood is living in luxury in Madison Square with his
20 year-old daughter Alida (Amanda Jane Cooper), with his financial investments
doing splendidly. In contrast, the widow Susan Fairweather (Amy Bodnar),
and her two grown children, Lucy Fairweather (DeLaney Westfall) and Paul
Fairweather (Ryan Vona), live poor as church mice in the Bowery. Yes,
this is the point in the story when the audience is supposed to take out their
tissues and weep for Mrs. Fairweather and her adult children. After all,
she knows nothing about the circumstances of her late husband’s death, only
that his corpse was mysteriously discovered on a New York street in 1837.
alert! Good will ultimately triumph over evil in Act
2. But you’ll have to buy a ticket to the show to see how the story
takes some incredible twists before justice is served and young lovers find
original music and songs add more texture to Boucicault’s
melodrama. There are 15 songs in all, each varying in subject and
tone. Some are rib-ticklers like the song “Oh How I Love Being Rich” in
Act 1, sung by Amanda Jane Cooper’s Alida with a Midas-like glint in her
eye. Others are heartwarming like “Take Your Brother’s Hand,” sung
by the ensemble with disarming simplicity. But, by far, the most affecting
number is “Livingstone’s Sermon” in Act 2, belted out by the character Mark
Livingstone (Ben Jacoby) and the chorus: with a refrain that undeniably speaks
to our pandemic times: “But we’ll survive/ We’ll stay alive…./God help us all!/
We’ll never crawl/ We’ll stay alive!” Indeed, one could hear that
proverbial pin drop in the theater after the performers delivered this
an able cast to pull off this musical. And, fortunately, Moore has
lined up the right actors to do the job. David Hess, in the key role of Gideon
Bloodgood, has the requisite acting and singing chops, not to mention the
hamminess that brings his character to villainous life. Other
standouts? DeLaney Westfall inhabits Lucy Fairweather with dewy innocence
and unfeigned humility. Ben Jacoby infuses his character Livingstone
with the right mix of sincerity and suaveness. Amanda Jane Cooper
really knows how to chew the scenery as Bloodgood’s spoiled daughter
Alida. Richard Henry’s Dermot Puffy is completely convincing as the
baker, as is Polly McKie as his wife Dolly Puffy. A shout out to
Daniel J. Maldonado, who does double duty as the Sea Captain and “bad boy” Duke
Vlad, the latter role allowing him to strut his stuff on the dance floor with
Cooper’s Alida. But, truth be told, there’s not a weak link in this
feisty cast that is 12 strong.
comes to the creatives, kudos to Hugh Landwehr’s multiple sets that smoothly
morph from the streets of New York. . . to a banking house . . . to a luxury mansion
on Madison Square . . . to the interior of Puffy’s House on the
Bowery. Michael Gottlieb’s protean lighting washes the stage to
serve each and every dramatic moment. Linda Fisher’s costumes are a
mix of finery, rags, and the ridiculous (think of the character Alida in a
Victorian-styled hoop skirt that nearly takes up the entire stage).
(left to right) Amanda Jane Cooper, Daniel J. Maldonado
production has any flaws, it’s that its fine cast was not altogether immune to
COVID. Several performances of The Streets of New York had
to be cancelled in late December out of an abundance of caution for
all. Fortunately, the production resumed on December 29th.
cast and creatives deserve high-fives, Moore is the true star of this
production. As director, composer, and song writer, she has
managed to convert Boucicault’s melodrama into an artful theatrical statement
that literally can sing its way into your heart.
At 132 W. 22nd Street
(between 6th and 7th Avenue), in Chelsea.
information, visit www.irishrep.org.
time: 2 hours; 20 minutes with one intermission.