Thursday, August 7, 2014

Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter **

The creators of this indie rock musical from Iceland, now in previews at the Minetta Lane Theatre, certainly deserve credit for originality. Its producers are also to be commended for their daring in bringing this lavish production to New York. Its talented cast of 12 includes Cady Huffman (The Producers) as Manuela, mayor of Elbowville, a town of lobster fisherman who live simply and worship Robert Redford. The arrival of the Prosperity Machine leads them to rampant capitalism, unbridled consumerism and eventually economic collapse. (It’s not too different from what actually happened in Iceland not that long ago.) Overlaid on this cautionary tale is the story of three brothers, two of whom fall for the same woman. The production values are topnotch. When you enter, the entire back wall of the simple set (by Petr Hlousek) is covered with a projected film of a scruffy middle-aged man in camouflage trousers and a sleeveless polka-dot undershirt trying to fall asleep. It is in his elbow that the action takes place. The costumes (by Hrafnhildur Arnardottir and Edda Gudmundsdottir), mainly in black and red, are fanciful, especially the mayor’s. The evocative lighting (by Jeff Croiter) is very effective. Choreographer Lee Proud (Billy Elliot) moves the cast skillfully and throws in a lively tap dance number which has almost nothing to do with the plot, but is entertaining. Music director Stefan Orn Gunnlaugsson and the Revolution Cellular Orchestra make the most of Ivar Pall Jonsson’s songs. Jonsson also wrote the book and lyrics and his brother Gunnlaugur Jonsson wrote the story. The songs are varied and, in a couple of instances are quite powerful, particularly one near the end of the second act called “Alone.” Bergur Ingolfsson’s smooth direction hides many of the show’s flaws. If more of the songs had reached the level of the best ones and the plot had been less simplistic, the show could have been remarkable. As it is, it’s a welcome curiosity unlike anything you are likely to have seen. If you are thinking of going, I urge you to look at the show’s website, where you are able to listen to a few of the songs. Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes including intermission.

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