Himself and Nora features a book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Brielle. The show possesses a polish and finesse normally associated with a piece that has had more time to iron the kinks out. Granted, this musical did have a previous workout at The Old Globe in San Diego.
Matt Bogart gives an honest, simple performance as the randy James Joyce. Bogart currently stars on Broadway in Jersey Boys. Jessica Burrows is terrific as the patient and tolerant love of Joyce’s life, Nora. Both have solid singing chops that serve Brielle’s lovely score. The two have a nice chemistry together on stage. That’s probably a good thing considering that a couple of times during the show they simulate copulation.
There are a couple of Mr. Brielle’s numbers in the show that could be replaced for the betterment of the production, they are “The Grand Himself” and “The Children of Mister Joyce.” While I see the role of both songs in establishing character, I just didn’t like the songs.
The direction by Michael Bush is light-handed and creative. Of particular note is his staging of “Let’s Have a Drink” where Joyce and Nora exchanging letters to one another. Bush has isolated each of them during the number as they read their letter to the other but has them passing the same piece of paper back and forth. It’s a comedic touch that may not fare so well when reduced to being described in a review.
The choreography by Kelli Barclay is kept to a minimum and doesn’t require much from the cast. It fits with the piece in both volume and texture.
The costume design by Sara Jean Tosetti is attractive, period accurate and compliments the overall production. Michael V. Moore’s scenic design serves the production well with a minimal footprint. It has multiple flexible elements that include a casement window hung on a small movable unit, several chairs, a couple of tables, a few small benches and a lit cyc on the upstage wall.
The supporting cast includes David Arthur, Brian Sills, and J.B. Wing as various other characters that include Joyce’s father, a doctor, poet Ezra Pound, a priest that continually haunts Joyce, American publisher Sylvia Beach, and Joyce’s two children. All three give solid performances that match the calibre of our two leads.
Himself and Nora is a worthy entry to this year’s New York Musical Theatre Festival. It had me leaving the theatre humming the songs. It remains to be seen if it can gain commercial traction. Under normal circumstances I might say it isn’t commercially viable, but I probably would have said that about Next to Normal, and you know what happened there, a Pulitzer and Best Musical Tony Award.
Himself and Nora will play the following remaining performances at St. Clements on 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue.
Saturday, July 14th at 9:00pm
Sunday, July 15th at 3:00pm
Monday, July 16th at 5:00pm
Thursday, July 19th at 1:00pm