Thatâ€™s essentially the skinny on Marc Silverbergâ€™s â€œHeâ€™s Not Himself,â€ a story that by its end, is definitely a kick in the head.
Or maybe a punch, slap, or trip that lands you on it.
Always delightful, this musical, which is currently showing at the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, has it all, from tunes that will take you back to great films of the black and white era, to a â€œScooby Dooâ€ chase scene during the second act thatâ€™ll leave you in stitches. Throughout the performance, the young cast shows remarkable poise and comfort on stage. As a result, thereâ€™s never a dull moment.
Gene Bauer [Jimmy Traum] is your typical meter maid in a big city who fantasizes about a much more dangerous life. A fan of gangster flicks, he dreams of being the bad guy. However, with a heart two sizes too big and a lack of courage, the cowardly, yet loveable Bauer would more than settle for a happy life spent with his beautiful best friend Kay McAdams [Taylor Sorice] instead. But after a twist of fate encounter with a bank robber and a knock on the head, Bauer is transformed into â€œTeddy the Bear,â€ a ruthless gangster with his eyes on a diamond worth $50 million. And heâ€™ll even go as far as kill McAdams to get it.
While Traumâ€™s portrayal of Teddy isnâ€™t nearly as charismatic as his performance as Bauer, he gets the job done with excellent facial expressions, an amazing singing voice and an emotional commitment that is obvious. The same thing goes for Sorice, who is adorable as the tough, yet cute security guard love interest. While her microphone was acting up during the performance, Sorice had no problem projecting her booming and passionate voice.
Speaking of a booming voice, the sultry Carly Voigt [who looks remarkably like a younger version Hollywood starlet Elaine Hendrix] was remarkable as the femme-fatale, Bonnie James. Screaming energy and exuberance while on stage, her scenes provided a plethora of laughter and a level of sexy that brought the noir elements out perfectly. In the end, she steals the show.
Another element that added a level of depth to the performance was Dexter Thomas-Payneâ€™s portrayal of Detective Tom Vito, whoâ€™s intentionally fumbled clichÃ©s provided humor throughout the production. While his opening number wasnâ€™t as solid as it could have been, Thomas-Payne made up for this with a steady wit.
However, the performance of Marc Silverberg as Benny the Banker is the glue that keeps this production together. Hilarious at times and able to do more than hold his own singing and dancing, Silverberg isnâ€™t stretched out too far at all in this production and his versatility shows. A musical like this needs a solid bad guy and itâ€™s here where Silverberg is able to make the audience love and hate him simultaneously.
Overall, the production is able to make the most of modest set design and a small stage and thanks to memorable tunes and great performances from the entire cast, this is a production that can easily light up the stages of an Off-Broadway venue.