By: Paulanne Simmons
Deadheads Rejoice. Michael Norman Mann’s Red Roses, Green Gold, featuring the music and lyrics of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter is making its premiere at the Minetta Lane Theatre. The musical, directed by Rachel Klein, has all your favorite songs and even a plot … of sorts.
Set in the Maryland mining town of Cumberland during the 1920s, the musical focuses on the fate of the Palace Bar and Hotel (there’s also a mining company that plays a major role in the story) owned by Jackson Jones (Scott Wakefield) and coveted by the thieving McElroy brothers, Dudley (Brian Russell Carey) and Jessup (Michael McCoy Reilly).
Jackson has a wastrel son, Mick (Michael Viruet); a daughter, Melinda (Natalie Storrs); and a girlfriend, Glendine (Maggie Hollinbeck), who, after twenty years, is still reluctant to marry him. What’s more, Melina is in love with Jackson’s lawyer, Liam (David Park), and Mick has a girlfriend, Bertha (Debbie Christine Tjong) who refuses to let the philanderer go.
All this is somewhat confusing. But it does allow the versatile cast (the actors sing, act and play several instruments) to burst into song many, many times. There’s rock, country, folk, blues and a few ballads that are tuneful and moving. All of them will be recognized by Deadheads and appreciated by others, although some may have a headache halfway through the show.
The rustic set (Robert Andrew Kovach) sits uneasily with the psychedelic lighting (Jamie Roderick). And the costumes (Ásta Bennie Hostette) often leave the audience wondering where and when all these shenanigans are taking place.
But the antic antic action and its accompanying music never stop.
Mann first thought about writing a musical incorporating the music of The Grateful Dead in the 1990s. The result was Cumberland Blues and Shakedown Street, neither of which was particularly successful. Perhaps this new, zany version will strike the right note.
Red Roses, Green Gold ***
Minetta Lane Theatre
18 Minetta Lane, NYC
Plays through Sunday, December 17, 2017
Photography: Chad Batka