Andy Blankenbuehler of ‘Hamilton’ travels to 1920s Paris to stage a new musical

‘Only Gold’ at the MCC Theater. Photo by Daniel J. Vasquez.

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The summary:

If there’s a time to run to the theater to get away from it all, it’s now. With heightened midterm election anxiety and the general election looming not far behind, a night in Paris in 1928 seems delightful.

Add the dynamic choreography of three-time Tony Award winner Andy Blankenbuehler (hamilton, Bandstand, In the heights), and you might expect gold. And while the new musical only goldwith music and lyrics by Kate Nash and a book by Blankenbuehler and Ted Malawer (Halston and the upcoming film adaptation of Red, white and royal blue), isn’t quite 24-karat, it has enough sparkle and shimmer for a night at the theater.

Related: Meet the dreamy stars of Red, white and royal blue

'Only Gold' at the MCC Theater
Ryan Gold and Gabby Diaz in “Only Gold”. Photo by Daniel J. Vasquez.

No tea, no shade:

Nash also appears as the show’s narrator and sets the scene: “Paris. 1928. A time when the rules were ready to be broken. A place where a cup of coffee, a night at the opera or even a simple necklace from a backstreet store could change your whole life.

Cosme’s King Belenus (Terrence Mann) and Queen Roksana (Karine Plantadit) have arrived in Paris with their daughter Princess Tooba (Gaby Diaz), hoping to marry her off to a count and secure their fortune. country. But love has other plans when the free-spirited girl lights a flame with hotel bellhop Jacques (Ryan Steele). Countering the obvious plot is humble watchmaker Henri (Ryan Vandenboom), who yearns to bring his designs to life. At the same time, his wife Camille (Hannah Cruz) struggles with the place of women in society and her desire to play the piano professionally.

The royal couple cross paths with the Humble Designers in search of a long-lost necklace once given to the Queen. And so the stage is set for an unrequited and rediscovered love in art and life.

Blankenbühler’s choreography is one of the most original and dynamic productions of the season. The company – a lot with hamilton as performing credit – embodies its vocabulary of movement with alluring weightlessness. Syncopated kicks or a lone shoulder bring it back to reality as if dreams are simply out of a character’s reach.

Nash’s music, which sounds slightly edgier but in the same vein as Ingrid Michaelson (who also entered the musical theater spotlight with a Broadway adaptation of Notebook), completes Blankenbuehler’s choreography with its melodic constructions and haunting melodies that sometimes exceed the emotional reach of their characters.

only gold tarnishes when it demands a triple threat from its actors. Vanderboom, as a watchmaker, is one of the few to live up to it by delivering a stunning dance solo. At the same time, as King Belenus, Mann takes only gold as far as it takes, playing every moment with unexpected passages from bravado to desperate love. As a wife, Plantadit appears stiff and lifeless until she begins to dance, at which point she is utterly magnetic to watch. Cruz, too, struggles to activate Camille’s self-discovery and emergent feminism.

Jeff Croiter’s lighting design plays nicely over David Korins’ filigree set, which feels too literal for only goldthe dreamlike ambition of. With all the references to the beauty of Paris, it’s as if the characters were locked up in the lobby of a five-star hotel.

Let’s take a moment:

In one of only goldIn the last sequences, the narrator talks about a young boy who blocks a dam with his finger. “The boy stayed like that for a very long time. His finger pruned and went numb until he couldn’t feel it anymore,” she continued. “The years passed, and passed, and passed, and he couldn’t remember why he put his finger in the roadblock, to begin with.”

The metaphor brought to life by Blankenbuehler’s narrative ensemble testifies to the King’s rigidity in clinging to the past versus the freedom, beauty and possibility of the present.

'Only Gold' at the MCC Theater
(left to right) Karine Plantadit, Terrence Mann and Gaby Diaz in “Only Gold”. Photo by Daniel J. Vasquez.

The last word:

In an interview with the New York Times, Blankenbuehler said, “Kate is the kind of person who – and it’s a compliment – ​​writes what she wants to write. If she feels it, she writes it down, so she’s always into her own music. Being in someone else’s story was hard for her because she’s not those personalities. One thing she worked really hard on is wearing the character’s clothes, writing the song from inside the character.

Nash was a quick study, and the payoff is significant in only gold, accompanied by Blankenbuehler’s athletic and emotionally charged choreography. And while the story doesn’t always live up to the occasion, it’s a pretty whimsical French distraction from what’s going on back home.

only gold plays Off-Broadway at the MCC Theater’s Newman Mills Theater through November 27.

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