Cabaret Review: PIECES: NEW MUSICAL SELECTIONS (Richard C. Walter at Chelsea Table + Stage)

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by Paola Bellu on January 19, 2024

in Concerts / Events,Music,Theater-New York

It’s hard to compose for modern musicals and not fall for pop-tunes or Sondheim’s classic songs to be safe; Theatre is made of trials and errors, you keep reworking ingredients until you get the perfect sauce, your sauce. Composer and lyricist Richard C. Walter is very busy doing that. With Pieces: New Musical Selections, presented last night, January 18, at Chelsea Table + Stage, he gave us a taste of his current creative trials by presenting new songs from shows he has been developing, starting with Madame Clicquot: A Revolutionary Musical.

It is dedicated to Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Clicquot, the eponymous widow Clicquot (widow is veuve in French), one of the most important businesswomen in history who saved her company 300 years ago and created what we now call the champagne market. It’s a tremendous subject, it explores issues such as women’s emancipation and political corruption during the French Revolution, unfortunately modern problems we are still dealing with. Victoria Frings, a distinctive musical voice who sings “Closer Than Before,” the first song from the musical, shows us a remarkable vocal agility and range. She makes us wish for more — and she delivers with “The Man He Chose For Me” and “Better Not”. Her originality shines through, a voice you will not forget.

Walter is also working on Retrograde with NY director, performer, and fashionista Nick Laughlin, co-founder and director of Divatronic, who sang on stage for both productions. Retrograde, Walter tells us, is a musical inspired by astrology and the congeniality he shares with Laughlin. “Blame It on the Moon”, written by them, performed by Blaine KraussMegan DwinellJoanna Carpenter, and Michael Schwitter, is playful, sneering, and pop-y enough to make it a saucy Broadway hit. Just like Madame Cliquot, we can’t wait to see it staged.

Considering the difficulties caused by a non-theater venue like uneven sound, a slightly out of tune piano, columns, and musicians hidden under the stairway, from a purely musical perspective, the material shows a lot of potential. A bit safe; Walter should dare more because the plots and lyrics give him room to experiment, to try different music genres within the plays while keeping their foundation and composition.

All the other performers, Rachael WorthingtonTim RoganKevin MasseySantina Umbach, and Jonathan Christopher are perfect for the roles they played, all Broadway stock. A special regard  to Lisette Glodowski, a composer, lyricist, and performer, Walter’s partner-in-crime, who brought on stage all her passion for the work and made us feel it.

Lyrics are both ironic and inherently melodic, mainly showing Walter’s Sturm und Drang. NYC-based actor and musician Kai An Chee, intensely and charmingly closes the show, looking straight into his eyes, singing to him as to say: keep going, believe in yourself, this is great.

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