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Larry Litt

Wrong Way Up

Book, Music, and Lyrics by Robert Whaley and Tony Grimaldi
Directed by Andrew Grosso
8 pm, Wednesdays to December 15, 2004
The Belt Theatre, 336 W. 37th Street, NY, NY
Tickets available online at www.theatermania.com
and by calling 212-352-3101
Reviewed by Larry Litt

Depressed and mad as hell on Nov 3rd I went to see Wrong Way Up at the Belt Theatre as a relief from post-election handwringing. I needed a real down and dirty, honest New York entertainment. I wanted a New York story because I was appalled and sickened from days of pre-election media talking heads boosting those hypocritical Midwestern and Southern conservatives and their so called moral values. They are the cause of our culture war, they want us to stop producing our work. It’s going to be a long fight to keep our rights and incomes in the arts.

Luck was with me. I couldn’t have chosen a better show. Not only did Wrong Way Up’s high energy cast remind me why New York is the one and only glittering capital and all attention getting center of the creative world, but it focused my thoughts on why most of the rest of this country is a vast wasteland of creative and spiritual decadence.

Robert Whaley and cast are accomplished performers who can make an audience laugh or cry with their inspired commitment to a song’s heart tugging poignancy then quickly turn around and deliver witty lyrics that make Andrew Grosso’s direction worthy of his reputation.

Obviously Tony Grimaldi as Mitch is the kind of musical friend everyone wants. He’s a nice guy with moneyed parents who can keep a band going. He’s also the Jiminy Cricket conscience Arthur the budding star needs to keep him grounded so his head doesn’t explode.

The Belt Theatre offers an intimate stage, meaning there isn’t a lot of room to move. Choreographer Thomas Mills has used just about every inch of that skimpy stage to display the joy these performers feel as they sing, dance and tell the story of Arthur, a nerdly, lost boy who finds happiness and love in New York after a troubled adolescence in the dreaded and barren town of Somewhere in Upstate New York.

I loved Rachel S. Stern’s inspired torch styling in Hearts Beyond Broken, a tear jerker of a song, that sets the stage for the deeper human issues of the show. Creators Whaley and Grimaldi are as much interested in the roots of family problems as they are in its stage struck progeny. Stern’s portrayal of unfulfilled, small town women’s desires for, and grievances after, love and marriage rang true and deep.

Jeffrey Dean Wells as Arthur’s drunk, dissolute, disappointed father lacked paternal maturity. However, his several other quick change characters broadcast a comedic sense to be admired. He had the audience doubled up with laughter by his stereotypical characterizations of typical New York types and their foibles.

If you’ve ever wondered where all these dreamy, stage struck, talented yet lonely kids come from it’s all here. Arthur and his friends are well worth a night.

What I want to know is where do they go when they grow up? That’s the subject for another show. [Litt]

If you have any comments or want to notify me about performances or shows, you can e-mail me at humornet@aol.com.

Copyright © 2004 Larry Litt


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