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April 11, 2012

Concert recap: Lysistrata Jones Class Reunion at Joe’s Pub

by Jesse North

lysistrata jones concert joe's pub reunionThe energy at Joe’s Pub was infectious on April 9 as the short-lived, but much loved, Lysistrata Jones cast performed their Class Reunion concert. The quirky Douglas Carter Beane musical, a modern-day musical adaptation of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, played only 30 performances on Broadway, but was in fine shape taking to the stage one last time three months after closing.

Concert recap by Zachary Laks

Joe’s Pub’s intimate setting made for an exciting opportunity to hear Lewis Flinn’s score, which will be preserved on a cast recording set for release on May 15. Book writer Beane hosted the evening, interjecting his sharp wit in between the performances. Three of the original Broadway cast members were unable to attend, due to scheduling conflicts. Most noticeably absent was Lysistrata Jones herself, Patti Murin who is filming a pilot in Los Angeles. Teddy Toye (Harold) and Alexander Aguilar (‘Uardo) were also unavailable for the event.

The concert began as the Broadway production did, with its startling bang and a Greek-like chorus homage leading into its high-energy meet-the-characters cheer song, “Right Now.” With a peppy, petite lead in Libby Servais (Murin’s understudy—who had never gone on in the role on Broadway), the opening brought the whole cast out to great cheers and the glory-filled moments of the cast reuniting on the same stage. Flinn noted that the performance was taking place exactly one year ago from the first rehearsal for its off-Broadway production.

Lindsay Nicole Chambers was spontaneously called upon to perform her hysterical slam beat poetry entitled “Despair” as Beane noted that the poem was one of the most-talked-about moments in the show. She nailed the beat poetry and had a great time with it, seeming ready for it at a moment’s notice.

During “Just Once,” Lyssie J’s want song added for the Broadway run, Servais nailed the humor with ease. The scene was so well done that Beane joked that with one performance under their belt, they’d be ready for off-Broadway.

“Change The World” was a chance for Servais to show her confidence, exuding youthful pep as she decidedly chooses to give up sex until the university’s basketball team wins a game.

“No More Giving It Up” gave Jason Tam the opportunity to cover for the ‘Nardo and his chemistry with Kat Nejat and their “no sexo” bit had a fresh Latino flare. Throughout the number, Chambers and Servais had delightful camaraderie as they decreed their new decree.

“Lay Low” was introduced as a send up to boy bands. The song is Mick’s (played by Josh Segarra) response to the women’s stand against sex. Tam and Flinn subbed into the mix to great effect. Segarra was having fun with the song, playfully essaying the song with his own peppy choreography and charm.

Liz Mikel’s Act I show stopper, “I Don’t Think So,” was heavily reliant on staging, costumes, and props in the original production. Here, it managed to remain as funny, raucous and brassy as ever. The self-proclaimed “hostess with the mostess” channeled the seen-it-all prostitute masterfully as she teaches the girls a trick or two on how to best tease their men. As the 6 train rumbled below the venue, the walls shook with the exclamatory sounds of the women declaring their newly learned lessons of flirtation and chastity. The whole number crescendos into one my favorite musical moments of the 2011-2012 Broadway season and nothing was left for wanting in this concert rendition.

“You Go Your Way,” which Beane cited as his favorite number from Lysistrata, was an audience favorite. A rock anthem of separation sounded it’s best as the actors, free from the aerobic choreography, were able to stand and deliver.

The Act I closer “Where Am I Now” was as stirring as ever. Servais brought her own firm vocal inflections and honest characterization, all pacing towards the final belt-off, which she nailed. The audience erupted at the song’s key change, building towards the final spine-tingling notes of the first act.

VIDEO: Watch Libby Servais sing “Where Am I Now?”

The second act started up with “Writing On The Wall,” sung by Biti Strauchn, a back-up vocalist who had been with the show since the beginning. Strauchn’s soaring vocals perfectly harmonized with Mikel’s deep, earthy rasp while never intruding on the action. Throughout the score, Strauchn beautifully adds her vocal styling to fill out the sound, but here, she was given free reign to stand out.

“Hold On” with Servais, Tam, and Mikel was gorgeous and touching; the song never fails to make me tear. This was a more playful, fun performance of the song that fared well without the dynamic staging of its original incarnation.

VIDEO: Watch Jason Tam, Libby Servais, and Liz Mikel sing “Hold On”

LaQuet Sharnell and Alex Wyse’s “Don’t Judge a Book By It’s Cover” is a the sort of valentine to a working relationship that you don’t often see in a musical comedy duo. Both Sharnell and Wyse demonstrated a great chemistry and the role-playing/reveal in the scene was always an audience favorite.

“Right Now: Operetta” by the whole company was fresh and sounded great, if not a little too loud on the seemingly delicate sound system of Joe’s Pub.

“When She Smiles” by Segarra was soft, and again, more playful and free than done at Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theatre. It was nice to see him sing it straight out on a mic, as opposed to the scene in which he plays it singing to Robin, his love interest, while she helps him type up his essay.

“Hold On (reprise)” with Mikel and Servais was a fun pairing to place these two women of contrasting types next to each other. Mikel’s assured energy shined bright.

“The Final Game” and “Give It Up!” brought it all to an exclamatory rise of joy and pride with the full cast on stage singing their hearts out, hinting at various moments of the show’s choreography and tipping their hats to one another’s moment to shine.

The evening was a rare and exciting opportunity to revisit a musical that didn’t get the chance to shine long enough on Broadway. However, as demonstrated in the enthusiasm for evening’s concert, Lysistrata Jones will undoubtedly shine on in many future productions to come.

Were you at the Lysistrata Jones reunion concert, Rushers? Which was your favorite performance? Did anyone stick out to you during the concert that didn’t during the Broadway run? What other closed Broadway shows do you wish would reunite for a concert? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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