They All Knew

Book, music and lyrics by Robert Mitchell
Directed by Judith Fredericks
Wings Theatre Company
154 Christopher St. (212/627-2961)
Equity showcase (closes Jan. 22)
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh

They All Knew is a new musical about a guy who finds out he is adopted and is then forced to deal with the revelation. It has a few ambitious, well-crafted numbers and had a very talented, hard-working cast, but overall the script lacks direction, theme, and purpose.

The show tells the story of Peter from his perspective, but completely out of chronological order. The show begins as Peter's father dies; throughout, his father heckles him as he tries to write the eulogy. Then there are flashbacks of various, unrelated incidents from Peter's youth, mostly told chronologically, interspersed with various scenes that are also seemingly chronological but are spaced out sporadically from each other.

Thus, the show was very confusing and befuddled. Much clarification is needed to streamline the story. Also, the show is too long, so possibly reducing it to one act would work (especially considering the second act has eight reprises).

The music is interesting and complex at times, though there are many weak cadences (some songs end very abruptly) and some lackluster, static melodies. The lyrics are functional but at times seem cramped or clichéd. The major highlights of the show were a really nice group scene-song, Summer in Wisconsin, and the lush duet ballad, I Think I Could Love You.

The cast was universally good. They worked really hard with the material they were given -- some played almost a dozen parts! The highlights of the well-trained cast were Adam MacDonald as Peter, Valerie Issembert as Laura, and Elizabeth Cherry as Joanna. MacDonald carried the show and had a beautiful baritone. Issembert brought strength and realism to the role of MacDonald's sister. Finally, Cherry had a rich singing voice, both a powerful belt and a charming mix tone.

Judith Fredricks's direction did little to elucidate the chaos. Tom Claypool's sets and costumes were minimal but effective.

They All Knew has highlights, but needs a serious reworking to become focused and poignant.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2005 Seth Bisen-Hersh