Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Williamsburg! The Musical - Fringe Festival Review

August 21, 2007

The phantom of the L train
By Christopher Murray
for The Brooklyn Paper

Picture credit: Jonathan Grey

Each August, the New York International Fringe Festival is overrun with new plays hoping to become the next Broadway mega-hit. This year, the festival’s 11th outing, is no exception, with over 200 shows in 19 venues over two weeks of steamy summer weather.

Adding some additional this week is the delightful concoction “Williamsburg! The Musical,” that satirically skewers Brooklyn’s bastion of hipster cool.

Billyburg is ripe for mocking, of course, with its pretentious young fops, dandies, cool cats and tough chicks running around what some people call “the campus” wearing torn t-shirts and black mascara, daring anyone over 30 to divine their actual gender.

"Williamsburg! The Musical” doesn’t miss a trick in skewering every aspect of the nabe, from the Polish grandmothers pushing pierogies to the Puerto Rican bogeda owner acting as handyman to the ‘hood.

The musical’s plot line follows a Romeo and Juliet story in which a new denizen of “the coolest neighborhood in America “ named Piper (Alison Guinn), in a tantrum over her daddy cutting off her trust fund, is stopped from throwing herself over the Williamsburg Bridge by Schlomo (Evan Shyer), the Orthodox Jew who runs the local dry cleaners. Sparks fly as the subway rushes by and Piper is entranced by Schlomo’s old world chivalry.

Meanwhile, a crazy real-estate broker is buying up the area’s last remaining deals, charging newbies exorbitant rents, oh, and turning unsuspecting youth into hipster zombies to do her evil bidding.

Sound crazy? It is, and also a heck of a lot of fun. Like its more serious and darker older sibling, the musical “Rent,” this show is driven by the exuberant energy of its young cast. Each member of the ensemble of 14 actors is giving it his all, doing broad bits of shtick and sending up stereotypes of his own generation.

The songs, by Kurt Gellersted and Brooke Fox, are wordy, catchy, fast moving parodies with simple, witty lyrics like “All is takes is cash to look like trash” in the opening number “Welcome to Williamsburg” or in “Schlomo’s Lament”: “My father taught me how to steam and now I live this simple dream.”

Both the choreographer and director, Deborah Wolfson, and the designer of the droll and spot-on costumes, Jennifer Rogien, bring color and life to the proceedings.

Stand outs in the cast include the leads, Alison Guinn, whom Brooklyn theatergoers enjoyed playing a dizzy blond in Gallery Players’ recent “Victor/Victoria,” and Evan Shyer, whose beautiful voice and comic manner are perfect tonics to the hipster mayhem that surrounds him.
“Williamsburg! The Musical” may not light up Broadway anytime soon, but it is a clever, sweet-spirited show that will surely be a hit off- Bedford.

“Williamsburg! The Musical” has its last performance on Aug. 24 at the Village Theatre (158 Bleecker St., in Manhattan ). Tickets are $15. For information, call (212) 279-4448 or visit

©2007 The Brooklyn Paper

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