A scorching summer can use some cooling down. So head-off for a splash of a jazz-age romantic musical with first-rate, cabaret style voices to delight and a three-piece band to add to the pleasure. Metro Stage’s "Glimpses of the Moon" is a relaxed production looking back to the Manhattan moneyed class in the whirling early 1920’s when everything was grand and swell. This is soft-edged entertainment like a shimmering water-color painting of moonlight reflecting off a rippling lake.
The musical is based upon a lesser-known work by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton, famous for her unsettling social commentary. With a closely knit cast directed and choreographed in an unfussy style by David Marquez there is movement galore to flesh out a score of over 15 songs. With book and lyrics by Tajlei Levis, music by John Mercurio and musical direction of Darius Smith, the foibles of the rich are mocked in a light-hearted manner through two acts and multiple scenes. There may not be a single stand-out song but the score carries the show along winningly. "Glimpses of the Moon" turns on two charming but flat broke friends who meet cute. They devise a business deal to keep up with their apparently happy rich friends; marry each other "not for love, but for money, until we find love." They will sell off their wedding gifts to live a lush life awaiting that someone to genuinely love. The scheme, of course, goes array as honest affection grows giving the show its plot twists and glimmer.
The six-member cast is exceedingly likable. Each has a turn in the spotlight to deliver a solo. The two lovers, Natascia Diaz (2009 Helen Hayes award, Outstanding Lead in a Musical) and Sam Ludwig each have clear voices and a delivery that lets the lyrics and the melody sink in without bombast. Diaz reaches beyond ballad work to be comically nuanced with "Cigars," a song about gifting away objects that is reprised several times. The duets between the two are polished and soulful. Diaz has a wide range of facial expressions to add critical visual aspects to her work.
Helen Hayes award nominee Gia Mora as a jaunty posh living married woman is a joy to behold. Without a sound uttered she can power herself with a wingspan that reaches for the heavens and fingers dancing about tipped in fiery red nail polish. Her kiss-off song to her husband, "Letters to Nelson" is choreographed to show her totally supple movements. Lauren "Coco" Cohn brings spirited comic virtuously as a scene-stealing educated, matronly young woman who finds some sensuality. Her enormous round eyes pop out as if made of plastic and she had just seen some Marx Brothers movies. Helen Hayes Award recipient Stephen F. Schmidt’s poignant out-of-nowhere rendering of "Tell Her I’m Happy" is his anthem to a lost marriage. Matthew A. Anderson takes a generally arch approach but his sarcastic chirper rendition of "Terrible News" at the top of Act Two is a hoot.
The set designed by Daniel Pinha has a stylish look; done up with visual details columns in a French blue color scheme giving a sense of luxury to the intimate MetroStage decor. From a checkerboard floor, large columns and moveable set pieces there is real weight and some depth depicted. Nothing is flimsy. The three-piece band composed of piano, woodwind/reeds and drums is part of the set at audience right. The luxury look is carried forward with the radiant costume design especially for the women who are often enough bedecked in shimmering dresses and sparkling jewels while the band members are outfitted in handsome tuxedoes.
Glimpses of the Moon was first performed on Monday evenings in 2008-2009 in the Oak Room, a cabaret space in the Algonquin Hotel, New York City. A unique aspect of the production is a scene that takes place in the Oak Room cabaret setting with an alternating solo performer over the run of the production.