Saturday, December 23, 2017

Review of "Desperate Measures"

Desperate Measures, the small-scale Off-Broadway musical, is a charming rascal of a show full of wit and pluck.

The time is somewhere out West in the late 1800’s.  There, we meet Johnny Blood (Conor Ryan), a simple-minded gunslinger in jail awaiting the hangman’s noose.  His crime – shooting a rival while protecting the honor of his less-than-honorable dance hall girlfriend Bella Rose (Lauren Molina).  Only a pardon from the unscrupulous Governor (Nick Wyman) can save the prisoner, but his licentious terms present big problems for Johnny’s sister (Celia Hottenstein, who was in the cast for Emma Degerstedt), a nun about to take her final vows.  However, with the help of the honorable, straight shooting sheriff (Peter Saide), an inebriated priest (Gary Marachek), and the saloon hussy they foil his Honor’s dastardly deed and save the day.

Peter Saide, Emma Degerstedt, Conor Ryan and Gary Marachek from "Desperate Measures."

Peter Kellogg’s lively book, loosely based on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, is boisterous and just plain fun, using inventive and sprightly rhymed couplets throughout the production.  Comical moments are bountiful and puns are aplenty.  The scenes are structured to allow the acting troupe an opportunity for maximum theatrics, gnashing the scenery and just plain hamming it up.

Like the songs from their previous Off-Broadway effort, Money Talks,  
the score for Desperate Measures by David Friedman and Mr. Kellogg is tuneful and engaging, incorporating a number of styles that include country and western hoedowns, comedic ballads, and Broadway standards.
Lauren Molina and Conor Ryan in "Desperate Measures."
The cast is superb with Nick Wyman as the despicably immoral Governor von Richterhenkenpflichtgetruber and Lauren Molina as the overly accommodating Bella Rose providing the two best performances of the show.  Wyman, a cagey stage veteran, seems to be having the time of his life as the shameless and debauched politician.  Ms. Molina’s portrayal of the tavern tart is a comic gem.  She possesses a riotous vocal delivery with exaggerated facial expressions to match.  Conor Ryan conveys a puppy dog lovability, as Johnny Blood, the wholly inept gunslinger.  Peter Saide does a highly satisfying job of having his character, Sheriff Martin Green, play the straight man to all the shenanigans swirling about him.  Celia Hottenstein’s Sister Mary Jo is suitably unblemished and prim and proper, even as she harbors a devlish sparkle in her eyes.  Gary Marachek is absolutely hilarious as the mostly intoxicated town clergyman, Father Morse.
Nicky Wyman and Emma Degerstedt in "Desperate Measures."
Director Bill Castellino does a cracker jack job keeping the actors from going over the edge with their histrionics and balderdash.  He keeps the fast-paced show merrily on its paces, effectively incorporating James Morgan’s simple, but savvy Scenic Design into the production.

Desperate Measures, a rollicking good time at the York Theatre through December 31st.

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