Musical revue fails to shine despite stellar Hammerstein songs.
By: Patrick Christiano
April 14, 2019: Sincerely, Oscar is billed as a new musical, conceived and written by Doreen Taylor and starring Doreen Taylor. Instead of a new musical however, the evening is a lame revue featuring twenty-one songs by the renowned lyrist, Oscar Hammerstein. The timeless song list from his classic Broadway shows like Show Boat, Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music, is impressive, and Taylor has a lovely, well trained, strong soprano voice. But that’s about as good as it gets.
Everything else about this production, from a first-time Off-Broadway producer, is ill conceived, and the hokey staging by first-time Off-Broadway director, Dugg McDonough, is laughable. This evening is a star vehicle for Taylor, and McDonough has complied, keeping her front and center throughout, ascending or descending a series of platforms to punctuate moments within the songs, which gives her something to do since she doesn’t fill the song emotionally.
A speaking hologram, representing Hammerstein, in a voiceover by Bob Meenan, is intended to give us the feeling of Oscar himself reminiscing on his career. This is a clever gimmick that opens the show and is used frequently to set up songs with the hologram returning, often, to Oscar’s favorite word, dream. Live that dream is written in letters, floating in the background, to emphasize the evening’s message in case you didn’t get it.
Taylor occasionally shares the stage with another performer, Azudi Onyejekwe, a charismatic singer and dancer, who appeared on Broadway in The Great Comet. The two make an odd pair visually and have zero chemistry. His youthful physique and movement only accentuate her full-figured stature and her dress compounds the distinction between them making her look matronly.
While they sing, simplistic video projections float in the background with banal images like rainbows, rivers, and stars meant to highlight the themes in the songs, and the images often have words written on them, just in case you don’t recognize them. They are intended as subliminal messages to bolster the feelings but are only distracting and numbing. The orchestrations that sound like elevator music compound the issue and contribute a strange blissed out state that adds to the superficiality of the evening. Nothing is organic, and the staging doesn’t give the performers a chance. Everything is imposed, or mechanical and the results are quite dull and tedious despite the glorious songs.
Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row
410 W. 42nd Street, NYC
For tickets, call 212-239-6210 or visit http://www.sincerelyoscar.com
Running time: One hour and 35 minutes with No Intermission. Through June 30, 2019
Photography: Derek Brad