After a hit run at the York Theatre last year, Peter Kellogg and David Friedman’s rootin’-tootin’-shootin’-prosecutin’-prostitutin’ Wild West musical returns with a second helping of its tasty corn pudding. Very loosely adapted from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure (and written in rhyming dialogue), the show ropes you in with peppy songs and an engaging cast of six sharpshooters: Peter Saide as a strapping lawman, Conor Ryan as a jailed outlaw, Sarah Parnicky as a nun (with a wimple and a dimple), Nick Wyman as a lecherous German villain, Gary Marachek as a boozy priest and Lauren Molina as an ever-game, highly seasoned saloon gal.—Adam Feldman
2017 theater review by Diane Snyder
[Note: This review is for the original New York production of Desperate Measures at the York Theatre Company. The show returns for an encore run at New World Stages starting May 30.]
It takes true grit to fashion a musical from Shakespeare and set it in the late-19th-century Old West. Inspired by Measure for Measure, the peppy tuner Desperate Measures follows the plight of soon-to-be-nun Susanna (Emma Degerstedt), who can save her brother (Conor Ryan) from the hangman’s noose only by spending a night with the deplorable governor (a deliciously drooling Nick Wyman). To preserve her chastity, the handsome sheriff (Peter Saide) suggests she get saloon gal Bella (Lauren Molina, hilariously bawdy) to switch places with her. After all, Bella’s the reason Johnny got involved in the deadly gunfight that sealed his fate.
Shakespeare’s plot has been stripped down and stretched out in Peter Kellogg’s clever book, written in verse that sounds closer to Molière than the Bard; the score, by Kellogg and composer David Friedman, is an airy array of show tunes with country flourishes. (The most memorable is the bouncy duet “Just for You,” in which Bella and Johnny declare their love through jail-cell bars.) But although director-choregrapher Bill Castellino and his cast of six bring bountiful vigor and comedic élan to the production, the characters are mere devices on which to hang songs and jokes. The quest for justice and mercy that burns throughout Shakespeare’s original—and so many Westerns—lies beyond this show’s range.
York Theatre Company (Off Broadway). Book and lyrics by Peter Kellogg. Music by David Friedman. Directed by Bill Castellino. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs. One intermission.
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A musical comedy gone wild
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$35–$45 orchestra sides and rear (regular price $59)
$55 front orchestra (regular price $89)
Promotional description: When the dangerously handsome Johnny Blood's life is on the line, he must put his fate into the hands of a colorful cast of characters including a mysterious sheriff, an eccentric priest, a sleazy governor, a saloon girl gone good and a win out of the habit. Together, they face uncharted territory as laws are broken and hearts are won. Before the sun sets, will they be able to rise up and pull off the greatest act yet, or will Johnny be left hanging? This witty and wild new musical comedy takes the Bard's Measure for Measure and shakes things up with a to tapping' score by award-winning composer David Friedman. Featuring fresh and feisty book and lyrics bar two-time Tony nominee Peter Kellogg, Desperate Measures is fully loaded with laughs with direction and choreography by Bill Castellino (Cagney).
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