After upwards of fifteen nominations, I was as happy as anyone to see Randy Newman finally win his Oscar for Best Song, “If I Didn’t Have You” from “Monsters, Inc.” in 2002. Now Newman’s work receives a musical roast in Mark Taper Forum’s production of “Randy Newman’s Harps & Angels”.
Three guys ( Ryder Bach, Michael McKean, Matthew Saldivar) and three girls (Sto rm Large, Adriane Lenox, Katey Segal) are the ensemble charged with bringing us the sights and sounds of Newman’s Music. Wrapped in a montage of loose narrative, the show’s repertoire spans from the 1968 classic “I Think It’s Gonna Rain” to "Down in New Orleans,” from the 2009 Walt Disney animated feature The Princess and The Frog.
While Newman’s musical signature is clearly the storytelling within his songs, only half of the musical numbers truly lend themselves to theatrical staging. “Big Hat, No Cattle” has sight gags built on, but the staging was fun as well. “You Can Leave Your Hat On” provided the perfect lyrical structure for a silly and seductive scene featuring Bach & Large.
As a musical roast to Randy Newman, the show is fine, everything a Newman fan would want and hope for. As a piece of musical theatre, it would probably serve the production better if there were fewer songs and more focus on creating a through line connecting the numbers. Having a character or story to follow gives the audience more to do than just wait for the next song; it would give the audience a journey to venture upon, and would create anticipation, because we won’t know where we’re going.
Overall, this production makes for a humorous, enjoyable evening.
Randy Newman’s Harps and Angels is running now until December 22, 2010 at:
The Mark Taper Forum
at the Music Center
Downtown Los Angeles
135 N. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Ticket Information: 213-628-2772