In New Orleans circa 1950s, four young artists are trying to find their way through life and more importantly life in The Big Easy. Things don’t exactly turn out as expected in the hot jazz of the French Quarter. “For The Last Time”, is inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, “The Marble Faun”. It’s currently running on 42nd Street’s Theatre Row.
With a live 8-piece jazz ensemble on stage, dark and brooding lighting by Jimmy Lawlor and southern inspired set by John McDermott, together capture the era and soul of the city on the Bayou. Once the band strikes up, the room comes to life as only found in the streets of New Orleans. We follow the journey of four young people and how their lives intersect with Laissez les bons temps rouler. A foreboding cloud looms over the plot through the presence of a narrator (Overseer/Teacher) who keeps breaking the 4th wall and reminding the audience that something less festive is coming down Bourbon Street.
There is a lot of talent on stage. Reggie D. White as the Overseer/Teacher exudes a haunting essence to the character. Anita Welch as Hilda brings believability to the roll of a church-going conservative from the Midwest but with an open mind. The stage is devoured by Brittany Campbell as Miram and Carl Clemons-Hopkins as Kenyon. They give powerhouse performances with strong voices that electrify the room like a Mardi Gras bash. Also noteworthy is Britton Smith as Donatello with a smooth voice and dancing skills of a true hoofer. Kudos to supporting players Kim Exum and Jason Veasey.
While I enjoyed the torch songs, band and strong performances, some of the score and book are a bit repetitive and not exactly the jambalaya that leaves you wanting more. Hawthorne’s 1860 novel sends home the strict message of decadence, secrets and sin in the eyes of religion. Like jazz music “For The Last Time” is a little less structured and much more vague.
Performances run through June 20, 2015.
Theater Row’s Clurman Theatre
410 West 42nd Street.
Tuesday 7PM; Wednesday thru Saturday 8PM; Saturday matinee 2PM; Sunday matinee 3PM.
Photos by Russ Rowland