Review: The Road to Qatar!
Songwriters fail to take the desert by storm.
Mon Feb 7 2011
Photograph: Carol Rosegg
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>2/5
The Road to Qatar! is paved with good intentions, but not with a surfeit of skill. In this modestly mounted vanity trip, Stephen Cole and David Krane jauntily musicalize the high jinks surrounding their 2005 commission to write a massive tuner called Aspire for an oil-rich Middle Eastern emir. "Everything you will see and hear is true," brags the opening number, presumably excepting a lot of false rhymes. (Even when mispronounced as "catarrh," Qatar doesn't pair well with caviar.) Hope is what this would-be Hope and Crosby are selling, but their show doesn't offer too much of it.
James Beaman and the amusing Keith Gerchak play Michael and Jeffrey, stand-ins for the authors, and labor visibly to overcome The Road to Qatar!'s construction flaws: the bumps of its bumptious score, the potholes of its plot holes, the cracked asphalt of its wisecracks' faults. ("We are like U.S. Army," says their Arab employer on the question of their Jewishness. "We work under 'Don't ask, don't Tel Aviv' plan.") And the basic story always savors vaguely of sour grapes, despite liberal doses of shticky show-tune sugar—or more accurately, given the hokey staging and cheapo look of Philip George's production, Sweet'N Low. "Maybe musical comedy can change the world," muses Jeffrey, and who knows? Perhaps it can. But meanwhile the world has changed musical comedy, and this show is stuck with an out-of-date map.
York Theatre Company (see Off Broadway). Book and lyrics by Stephen Cole. Music by David Krane. Dir. Phillip George. With James Beaman, Keith Gerchak. 1hr 35mins. No intermission.