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Off Broadway Review: ‘The Landing’

New musical by John Kander and Greg Pierce has a few strong songs but not much else to sing about

With:

Julia Murney, David Hyde Pierce, Frankie Seratch, Paul Anthony Stewart.

“The Landing” is esteemed Broadway composer John Kander’s first musical since the death of his long-time collaborator, Fred Ebb, so all eyes are naturally on his new partner, the young playwright Greg Pierce (“Slow Girl”).   In the Vineyard Theater’s production (starring David Hyde Pierce) of this suite of three unrelated pieces, the eerie title number — about two men who adopt a suspiciously perfect 12-year-old son to share their happy home — is the most substantial.  Not coincidentally, it also contains the most emotionally involving songs. The other two segments are more experimental in form, like literary translations of French existentialist comedies:  Clever but unmoving. 

Under Walter Bobbie’s stylized direction and mounted on John Lee Beatty’s abstract sets (gorgeously lighted by Ken Billington), the pieces in this minimalist show look unmoored from what we earthlings call reality.

In “Andra,” a neglected boy (Frankie Seratch) learns about the constellations from a kindly carpenter (Paul Anthony Stewart) and becomes swept up in the mythology of the stars.  In “The Brick,” a neglected wife (Julia Murney) purchases a brick from the blood-spattered wall where the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre went down and becomes swept up in the mythology of noir gangster movies.  The conceptual treatment of longing and loneliness is imaginative, the performances are up to snuff and the four-piece ensemble is excellent.  But the music is nothing to sing about.

“The Landing,” with its Lucite furniture and Upper West Side vibe, appears to be more grounded.  As are Jake (Pierce) and Denny (Stewart), longtime partners whose relationship is stable and loving enough to qualify them to adopt Collin (Seratch).  Although there’s no hint of how he came to them, this 12-year-old boy appears to be the perfect son for this sophisticated couple.  He’s intelligent, thoughtful, artistic and unnervingly well-mannered.

By the time Jake puzzles out the mystery of Collin’s identity, we’ve heard what we came for — a few insightful songs about love and its absence, and one heart-piercing number, “Thanks for That,” that says it all for all of us.

Off Broadway Review: 'The Landing'

Vineyard Theater; 125 seats; $80 top.  Opened Oct. 23, 2013.  Reviewed Oct. 22. Running time:  ONE HOUR, 40 MIN.

Production:

A Vineyard Theater presentation of a musical in one act by John Kander and Greg Pierce, with book and lyrics by Pierce, music by Kander. 

Creative:

Directed by Walter Bobbie.  Sets, John Lee Beatty; costumes, Michael Krass; lighting, Ken Billington; sound, Nevin Steinberg; choreography, Josh Rhodes; orchestrations, Larry Hochman; music director, David Loud; conductor, Paul Masse; production stage manager, Roy Harris.

Cast:

Julia Murney, David Hyde Pierce, Frankie Seratch, Paul Anthony Stewart.

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