NYMF 2015: Deep Love and Held Momentarily

This is TheaterMania’s fourth review roundup of the 2015 New York Musical Theatre Festival.

Jon Peter Lewis and Melanie Stone star in Lewis and Garret Sherwood's Deep Love, directed by Lewis and Michael Rader, for NYMF at The Pershing Square Signature Center.
Jon Peter Lewis and Melanie Stone star in Lewis and Garret Sherwood's Deep Love, directed by Lewis and Michael Rader, for NYMF at the Pershing Square Signature Center.
(© Jeremy Daniel)

Deep Love

By Zachary Stewart

The love expressed in this new musical by Garret Sherwood and American Idol contestant Jon Peter Lewis is not so much deep as it is psychotic. Still, the musical power undergirding this ludicrous show is insane enough to make that love plausible and even enjoyable.

Both composers star. Lewis plays Old Bones, the dead ex-boyfriend of Constance (Melanie Stone). Although deceased, he still demands complete fidelity, an unreasonable expectation Constance inevitably breaks when she comes across Friedrich (Sherwood), a sexy woodsman with flowing blond locks. Friedrich's lover Florence (The Voice contestant Amy Whitcomb) obviously objects, as does Old Bones. Broken hearts, musical emoting, and violence ensue.

This paper-thin in-no-way-enlightening story really just serves as an excuse to exhibit Sherwood and Lewis' knack for rock and roll. The entire affair is sung-through by a very talented cast. The irrepressibly fierce Whitcomb sings like the genetic offspring of Pat Benatar and a valkyrie. Stone is appropriately mousy. Sherwood possesses a macho rocker growl, Louis a terrifying wail. They're all supported by a hot band of rockers in skeleton masks (saxophonist Candido Abeyta gives a particularly impressive performance).

Lewis codirects with Michael Rader, lending the mise-en-scène an Edward Gorey feel that also pays homage to rock opera. With full face paint and a flowing cape, Lewis looks like a skeletal Phantom of the Opera (vaguely Gothic costumes by Bree Perry). Five waifish shades menace the central players with Ray Mercer's lyrical choreography. The whole thing looks like an extended Jim Steinman music video.

Of course, this is exactly the aesthetic one would expect from the ultra-moody score and persistently banal lyrics. "If I'm to go to Hell in solitude, / You're going too, you know, you're going too," Friedrich sings, holding a knife to his arm and threatening to cut. If you have an inner 13-year-old Goth kid just itching to break free, Deep Love is the perfect opportunity to let him frolic among the tombstones.

 The cast of Held Momentarily, directed by Harry Shifman, at the PTC Performance Space.
The cast of Held Momentarily, directed by Harry Shifman, at the PTC Performance Space.
(© Sean Gregory)

Held Momentarily

By Hayley Levitt

Six discontented New Yorkers (and one mysterious hobo) find themselves trapped underground in one of New York City's claustrophobic subway cars. A couple hours of bonding time later, they step off the train with refreshed perspectives and a few more friends. As always, malfunctioning trains, elevators, and the like are reliable if you need a high-stakes scenario in a hurry. But forgiving the familiar premise, Held Momentarily — directed by Harry Shifman, choreographed by Scott Stein, and satisfyingly scored by Oliver Houser (who also wrote its punchy book), with additional material credited to James Zebooker and Hunter Bird — is an enjoyable piece of musical affirmation for millennials looking for a way to escape the black hole of adult dissatisfaction.

Houser musically mimics Stephen Sondheim throughout. His opening number "Next Stop" conjures Sunday in the Park With George's "It's Hot Up Here; his relationship-centric "We're in Love" elbows the themes of Company (nicely sung by Jordan Barrow and Yael Rizowy as Stan and Sam, two folks manipulated by their respective lovers — the latter nine months pregnant and going into labor); and an ex-med student Liam's musical meltdown "Wait a Minute" (performed by an excellent Ciaran Bowling) has an air of the frenetic "I'm Not Getting Married." Nevertheless, the resulting tunes, with their engaging harmonies and rhythms, are predominantly successful and take a step beyond the conveyor belt sound that festival scores often adopt.

The rest of Houser's unlikely comrades, all of whom give top-notch vocal and comic performances, include the self-centered Wall Streeter Cal (played by Houser himself), and a pair of blind-daters — the hypermotivated Mindy (Geena Quintos) and the sensitive nerd Greg (James Zebooker). There’s also homeless subway resident Asherah (played by vocal powerhouse and The Voice finalist India Carney), who, dressed in a mosaic of rags, pops out of the shadows to offer wise words on love and life like a hybrid between Cinderella's fairy godmother and the Witch in Into the Woods. Her signature number, "If You See Something (Say Something)," skates an uncomfortable line between poignancy and self-mockery, but if you give up the fight to decide between the two, your ride will be far more pleasant.