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Theater review by Adam Feldman
Tom Jones has got wood. It’s thick, it’s hard, it extends below his knee, and he can do amazing things with it. No wonder ladies can’t keep their hands off the illegitimate but well-favored hero of Marc Acito and Amy Engelhardt’s ribald new musical comedy, adapted from Henry Fielding’s picaresque 1749 novel. As played by Evan Ruggiero, an endearing young actor with a prosthetic leg, Tom hops from bed to bed with great ingenuity. (He doesn’t just dance on his false leg; he also uses it as a weapon and a mock electric guitar.)
Like Tom, Bastard Jones is randy yet ingenuous; it’s like a very bawdy Disney movie, with hummable pop music to match. Staged with few frills, it relies mainly on the talents of its diverse and impressive cast of nine, which includes Elena Wang as Tom’s virtuous love and Crystal Lucas-Perry as a rich and insatiable femme fatale. (Both sing tremendously well.) If this smartly plotted and irrepressible musical moves beyond the Cell, there is work to be done in beefing up the characters and polishing the jokes. But the show has legitimate potential.
The Cell (Off Broadway). Book by Marc Acito. Music by Amy Engelhardt. Lyrics by Acito and Engelhardt. Directed by Acito. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 20mins. One intermission. Through July 15.
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