The Grove Street Wannabees

New Faces of 2001
Created and Directed by Brian Saxe
Musical director and accompanist Martin St. Lawrence
Spotlight On Festival
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Andrés J. Wrath

The format of the musical revue for singers, dancers, and impressionists is alive and well in Brian Saxe's The Grove Street Wannabees: New Faces 2001. The evening spanned the 20th century, decade by decade, and offered a mixed variety that ranged from the Charleston to hip hop and always gave the performers ample room to strut their stuff and work the much-needed wonder on stage. Audience members for whom the musical revue is not their thing would probably still be impressed and even swept away at the commitment and energy level of Grove Street....

Using cue cards to mark the decade the music is taking place, Grove Street Wannabees moves from the earlier part of the 20th century to the year 2000. Tunes from "The Charleston," and "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?" to Madonna's "Material Girl" were offered as the evening lineup. Intercut with these diverse varations was an episode of The Honeymooners played to perfection by Ricardo Cordero as Ralph Kramden, Jessica Sherr as Alice, and Steve Thornburg as Ed Norton. Using familiar faces as well as new ones, creator and director Brian Saxe polished an entertainment that was as breakneck in its implementation as it was captivating. Oh yeah, it was great fun too!

There was much to be impressed with Grove Street Wannabees New Faces 2001. The dances were consistently show-stopping, as in "Jeep Jockey Jump" danced with finesse and heart-pounding timing by Mark Sudell and Linda Digiosaffatte, as well as the hip hop number "Boot the Moon," requiring split-second movements by the entire ensemble. And if the dancing didn't blow the audience away, the voices certainly did, as with the wonderful John-Luke in "Brother Can You Spare a Dime," the alluring James J. Martinelli in "Singin' in the Rain," and the grace of Fil Straugnan in "My Funny Valentine"; also with delightful Diana Delacruz in "Cry me a River" and the radiant Edwina Garner, who sang her heart out in "Aint Misbehavin'." For added pleasure Angelique Mermet's Marilyn Monroe/Madonna and Andrew Russell's Elvis could not be ignored. Further, Tommy Femia's Judy Garland was a marvel unlike any other in town, and when Richard Defonzo's campy Liza joined her on stage they both brought the house down.

The musical direction by Martin St. Lawrence was sharp and precise. The directing by Saxe was excellent, and the choreography by Jen MacQueen was a stunner.

The costumes, assembled by MacQueen and Daisy Mermet, were terrific. The set, which consisted of an easel, sufficed, as did the uncredited lights.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Acting: 2

Musical Direction: 2

Directing: 2

Sets: 1

Lights: 1

Costumes: 2

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Copyright 2001 Andrés J. Wrath