Cyrano de Bergerac gets a jazz-infused contemporary update in Jake Broder’s play with music Miravel, a Sacred Fools World Premiere that scores high marks for performance, both vocal and instrumental, but could use some tweaking and tightening, particularly in its overlong first act.
Like Cyrano before him, renowned jazz composer Alphonso Bloch (Broder) suffers from a love that dare not speak its feelings, the American musician’s smashed-up leg taking the place of the French poet’s protruding proboscis as an obstacle to Happily Ever After with his Roxanne, the titular Miravel.
Also like Monsieur de Bergerac, our hero is blessed/cursed with a best friend of such striking looks and sex appeal that a) who wouldn’t want to be his friend? and b) what member of the opposite sex wouldn’t find him more desirable than Cyrano/Alphonso?
Not that Miravel (Devereau Chumrau) is instantly smitten by jazz star Henry Brooks (Will Bradley). Quite the contrary, since any man who would treat women as despicably as Henry apparently does seems hardly likely to make Miravel’s Most Wanted list.
Still, when you’re hot, you’re hot, and soon desire trumps reason and Alphonso’s best friend and his muse are sharing a private love nest, that is until things begin to sour between them, romantic troubles stemming in part from an increasingly belligerent Henry’s fear that it is actually Alphonso whom Miravel loves, or at least his music.
And so our selfless hero comes up with a plan that would do Cyrano proud, to write music for the fair Miravel and let Henry pretend that the melodies are his. What girl wouldn’t fall for that?
Miravel’s first act features some of the most exciting musical performances you’re likely to hear outside a jazz club, Broder’s original songs (“The New Collisionists,” “Miravel,” “New Year’s Blues”) and a couple of 20th-century classics (The Gershwins’ “Our Love Is Here To Stay” and “Summertime”) backed by as sensational a three-piece combo (Colin Kupka on sax, Michael Alvidrez on bass, and Kenny Elliott on drums) as any jazz lover could wish for, and there are some dramatic sparks along the way as well.
Still, it takes nearly an hour to get to the point where Alphonso offers Henry his music, and despite terrific work being done onstage, this reviewer found his interest flagging along the way.
Judicious cuts could make for a trimmer, perhaps intermissionless Miravel, since once Alphonso’s scheme is set in motion, things do indeed perk up a good deal, particularly when Miravel begins to wonder (no spoiler here, since we can sense it coming a mile away) just who it is that she truly loves.
Under Shaunessy Quinn’s assured direction, performances are all-around splendid, beginning with Broder’s brooding, introverted Alphonso, work made even more noteworthy given the actor’s Ovation Award-winning star turn as the eternally hypercharged Louis Prima. (Broder’s original compositions and his gifts at the piano shine under Paul Litteral’s expert musical direction, as does Ryan Johnson and Broder’s symphony composition.)
As Alphonso’s rival, Bradley once again proves himself one of L.A.’s most electric leading man, giving the role a dynamic intensity and lean-and-hungry sex appeal in addition to proving himself one terrific jazz singer.
Completing Miravel’s love triangle is the stunning Chumrau, who is not only gorgeous enough to fan the flames of two men’s love but digs deep into Miravel’s conflicted emotions and dances exquisitely to Cj Merriman’s graceful choreography. (Zach Brown is assistant choreographer.)
Miravel’s classy-looking set (scenic design by Entertainment Design Corporation: Alex M. Calle) works as both jazz club and as the backdrop to the play’s other locales and has been strikingly lit by R. Christopher Stokes. (Bo Powell is assistant lighting designer.) Jeff Gardner’s intricate sound design insures a perfect blend of vocals and instrumentals. Costume designer Rosalie Alvarez has created one character-defining outfit after another, with special snaps for Chumrau’s slinky gowns. (Lisa Anne Nicolai is assistant costume designer.)
Last but not least, there’s a terrific knock-down drag-out scuffle that earns high marks for fight/movement coach Laura Napoli.
Understudies Dana DeRuyck and James Fowler are set to play Miravel and Henry on Friday November 20.
Miravel is produced for Sacred Fools by Natalie Rose. Vanessa Claire Stewart and French Stewart are associate producers. Emily Lehrer is stage manager and Michaela Trumble is assistant stage manager. The voice talents of Jacob Sidney and Lucy Davenport Broder are featured as Radio Announcer and Voicemail.
Though not quite there yet, Miravel has the potential to be another winner for the multitalented Broder. As a showcase for its sextet of performers, it is already on the right jazz track.
Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., Hollywood.
November 13, 2105
Photos: Jessica Sherman Photography