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MURDER BALLAD Road Less Traveled Productions/RLTP Theatre
By
Sep 22, 2023, 13:42
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Through October 15
MURDER BALLAD Road Less Traveled Theatre

“Murder Ballad” is a fascinating and well-done mix of music and the differing social lives of Uptown and Downtown Manhattan residents.
This Julia Jordan and Juliana Nash musical is the first ever by Road Less Traveled Productions.
That’s clearly why veteran song and dance man and director Doug Weyand is at the controls on Dyan Burlingame’s set, using John Rickus’ dark and gloomy light.
The show takes a while to unfold and explain itself, as narrator Leah Berst sings her way across Manhattan, as well as tending bar Downtown.
Jenn Stafford is Sara, an Uptown wife and mother making heavy use of her subway commuter card.
Michael (Ricky Needham) is a poetry professor, with a deteriorating marriage to Sara and a switch to an MBA program for a new career.
Tom (Anthony Alcocer) is a Downtown bartender with an Uptown married girlfriend (Sara) and another closer to home.
Tom and Sara were a volatile item in the past before breaking up, with Sara taking up with Michael and eventually marrying him and having a child.
She looks on her life as getting a little boring, so she shifts to bed hopping between Tom and Michael.
As usual, things don’t go well.
It’s all told through somewhat mechanistic song titles: “Troubled Mind/Promises;” “Prattle 1/Narrator 5;” “Mouth Tattoo;” “Narrator 10/You Belong to me Reprise; and, “Clubs and Diamonds/Prattle 6.”
They are all very hard-edged, particularly coming from Berst.
It’s so depressing, although you can’t figure out the source of the title, until the very end.
This isn’t like some TV mystery where the killer is obvious by the first commercial.
Here, the killer becomes clear about three beats from the end of the show.
The story misses a few clues which would help us find out earlier.
It’s all well done, as the tale of bad relationships continues to deteriorate until there’s a body on the barroom floor.
Weyand has an expansive set to show the Uptown and Downtown sides of the tale.
He’s also working with some good voices, particularly Alcocer and Berst.
Sitting in the back of the room showed some sound weaknesses.
If RLTP wants to do some more musicals, it needs some work on the sound system.
Even so, “Murder Ballad” is a show worth seeing and credit to Road Less Traveling finally getting it on stage, after being blocked by the virus before.

A.W.

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