Kokandy Productions’ “Sweet Smell of Success” in one of the intimate Theater Wit spaces is a production that is probably best seen from seats in the back of the house.
The cast includes some very large voices—especially leads David Schlumpf as Sidney Falco and Brian Rooney as J.J. Hunsecker—who are mic’d up, perhaps in deference to the high ceilings, as is the entire ensemble and cast.
Much of the show features song and dance acts by the entire ensemble, and a bird’s eye view from above will help you appreciate the staging.
If you are a fan of Marvin Hamlisch music this is a show you should not miss.
In particular there are a few love ballads that are beautifully sung by Nathan Gardner as Dallas that one wonders why you haven’t heard before.
The book by John Guare with lyrics by Craig Carnelia also make room for a few solo cameo songs that provide quite the stage for a good pair of lungs.
Both Christina Hall as Rita and Stephanie Souza as a Club Zanzibar Singer got the goods and give a strong delivery of their tunes.
The genre of noir musical may be a challenge for many.
Is a story of crooks, incest, murder and unbridled ruthless ambition really something that lends itself to toe tapping melodies? Perhaps this story is best left as the film noir of greater fame.
You may concur that a noir musical genre is inherently ill-conceived but nonetheless see that this clearly doesn’t dim the enthusiasm of this cast, who, from lead to ensemble member, are clearly giving it their all.
The story is an imagined vignette from the likes of all-powerful Walter Winchell. J.J. Hunsecker is a gossip columnist king maker and breaker. When would-be big man Sidney Falco comes under Hunsecker’s wing we watch him descend far from his altar boy origins into a world where the ends justify the means, and the ends are nothing more than personal gain.
The foil to these two power-hungry men are the lovers, J.J’s sister (played by Victoria Blade) and her musician paramour, Dallas, who is the only one who holds on to what we are meant to think of as a quaint notion that people get ahead based on their talents and not who they know. All of the action stems from J.J.’s desire to keep his sister far away from this musician.
Because he wants to keep his sister’s affection J.J. uses Falco to do the dirty work. That dirty work gets dirtier and dirtier and therein lies the noir of the genre.
If you’d like to explore this noir musical genre for yourself you can see this production through February 2 at Theater Wit, 1229 West Belmont.
Buy online at the Theater Wit website or call 773 975 8150.
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Photos: Joshua Albanese Photography