The story of Billy the Kid has been told numerous times, in many, many different ways, but the entertaining new musical Outlaws: The Ballad of Billy the Kid, at the McGinn/Cazale Theater, manages to make the story seem fresh.
The show's book -- written by Perry Liu, Joe Calarco, and Alastair William King -- may be set in the 1800s, but the language used by the authors feels very contemporary. So does Liu and King's catchy score, which ranges from the hard-driving rock anthem, "We Do Whatever We Want," to the tender ballad, "A Place in the Sun," a duet between Billy (Corey Boardman) and his love interest Celsa (Isabel Santiago).
The production highlights the rebelliousness of youth as it follows Billy and his friends Pat (David Murgittroyd), Chavez (Justin Gregory Lopez), Charlie (Antonio Addeo), and Tom (Travis McClung), who like to drink, party, and commit a few petty crimes as they dream of traveling out West to California. Everything changes, however, when Billy shoots a man dead. And while he and his gang are initially thrilled by their notoriety, things start to spin out of control very quickly.
Boardman provides a nice mix of swagger and vulnerability in his portrayal of Billy. He -- and the rest of the cast -- also look terrific in Sky Switser's costumes, which suggest the Wild West without being strictly period.
There are moments when the actors push a little too hard, indicating the script's heightened emotions rather than conveying the tension and drama inherent in the characters' interactions. This is particularly true of the production's climactic gun fight, which doesn't have the emotional payoff that it feels it should.
Still, with a little more rehearsal and stronger guidance from director/choreographer Jenn Rapp, it's possible that the cast (all of whom sing their roles well) can get to the places they need to be -- particularly as the material they have to work with is already quite strong.
-- Dan Bacalzo
There are, however, a few concepts to let go of before you see it. First off, it's not really a musical; Marchetto lip-synchs to a soundtrack of pop hits, and his dancing, while energetic, is not exactly Susan Stromanesque. Secondly, the costume designs, which Marchetto created with his fellow director, Sosthen Hennekam, are much closer to papier-mâché than origami. And, finally, it's a good idea to check delicate political sensibilities at the door because a few of the masks border on minstrel imagery.
Over 50 characters are portrayed throughout the evening -- far more if you count the moment in which Marchetto simultaneously portrays the entire Edwin Hawkins Singers. And it's fun to see who turns into whom right before your eyes. You might not anticipate, for instance, just which pop star transforms into the Singing Nun, and specifically, what part of the anatomy morphs into her guitar.
Many of these quick-changes are giddily random, while others come with a touch of editorializing, such as an Albert Einstein to Justin Bieber to Pinocchio mutation. Some of the humor shows its age, while certain impersonations are so contemporary that many audience members may not know who they're seeing (For instance, is there a large NYMF/Kanye West crossover?) Marchetto also makes sure to throw in timely nods to New York theater, such as the requisite Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark joke.
But what ultimately triumphs is Marchetto's endearingly animated face and his sheer effort to entertain a crowd of strangers.
-- Andy Buck
Featuring a book by Keythe Farley and score by John Ballinger (music) and Lori Scarlett (music & lyrics), the show tells the tale of a relatively successful indie rock band that threatens to break apart when the frontman becomes romantically involved with a fan who has a troubled past.
From the band's name (Mark Twain's Mustache) to Ann Closs-Farley's appropriately hideous costume designs (shorts with suspenders, fanny packs, ugly thrift store loafers, and crazy patterns are all on display), F**king Hipsters! perfectly reflects the aesthetic sensibilities of its titular subculture.
The musical's greatest asset, however, is its score, which features several catchy numbers that have the smartypants quirkiness that characterizes hipster culture, including "Hypothetical Girl," sung by the lovelorn Evangeline (an endearing Heather Robb), and the boppy opening, "Mean It (But I Don't) But I Do."
Unfortunately, many of the characters need to be more fleshed out and the audience is way ahead of everyone onstage on a crucial plot point. The show's authors also don't find much humor in the none-too-original 'boy falls for wrong girl, boy realizes the right girl was there all along' story.
Moreover, while the show's refusal to engage in easy hipster bashing is refreshing -- the often maligned group is generally depicted here as talented and goodhearted folks -- the musical doesn't really have much of substance to say about them, either.
-- Brooke Pierce