You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Blue Flower

The catchphrase "a new musical" is hardly descriptive of "The Blue Flower," the work by Jim Bauer and Ruth Bauer at Second Stage: There are songs, story, actors and an eight-piece band, but none of them are used in a traditional manner.

Franz - Sebastian Arcelus
Max - Marc Kudisch
Hannah - Meghan McGeary
Mr. O - Graham Rowat
Maria - Teal Wicks

The catchphrase “a new musical” is hardly descriptive of “The Blue Flower,” the work by Jim Bauer and Ruth Bauer at Second Stage: There are songs, story, actors and an eight-piece band, but none of them are used in a traditional manner. This is an adventurous, one-of-a-kind and perhaps unforgettable affair; as such, it is likely to thrill a specialized audience while baffling patrons who wander in unsuspectingly. Piece is quite as startling as “The Adding Machine” or “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” although it might better be described along the lines of Tom Stoppard’s “Travesties” or Woody Allen’s “Zelig.”

The Bauers have combined music, words, gibberish, art and video into a fascinating whole. The show never stops moving, prodded along by almost constant film projected on a roaming 10-foot square screen made of what seems to be newspaper mixed with papier mache. Film is intrinsic to the story, with the Bauers mixing documentary (and mock-documentary) footage with made-to-order art, hand-drawn captions, and more.

Story tells of Max Baumann, an Austrian artist specializing in collages. He meets his soulmate Franz in art school in 1910 Berlin. They simultaneously fall for Maria, a scientist, who instantly chooses Franz. Max then finds Hannah, a performance artist. All is well until 1914, when the boys go off to war. Franz, naturally, doesn’t survive. The story continues through the rise of the Nazis and Max’s eventual escape to Manhattan.

This is not simply fanciful plotting on the part of the Bauers; characters seem to be fictionalized versions of post-expressionist artist Max Beckmann, painter Franz Marc, Dadaist Hannah Hock and chemist Marie Curie (who in fact was slightly older than the others).

The story, the art, and the implosion of two World Wars might leave some playgoers understandably overstimulated. (After being labeled a Degenerate Artist in 1937, Max speaks solely in what’s called Maxperanto. But his lecture on the Austrio-Hungarian roots of World War I is nevertheless marvelously clear, thanks to the accompanying film.)

Composer Jim Bauer alleviates the barrage of information and art with an eclectic score. While much of the music is atmospheric in Germany-between-the-wars style, at least eight of the songs soar, with a surprising country-and-western flavor. Bauer also contributes effective orchestrations for strings, accordion and a haunting bassoon.

Marc Kudisch, no stranger to cutting-edge musicals, is close to astonishing as Max. Sebastian Arcelus, late of “Elf,” becomes more impressive with each appearance. He acquits himself especially well with his singing of “Franz’s War” and “Heaven.”

The two women are also exceptional. Teal Wicks, a replacement Elphaba in “Wicked,” is a wonderful find as Maria; she closes the first act with an exquisite solo, “Eiffel Tower,” and combines well with Arcelus for “Love.” Meghan McGeary plays the startling Hannah, and does very well with some difficult Dada material. The composer also gives the four a fine quartet to open the second act, “No Place But Up.” The whole complicated production is well assembled by director Will Pomerantz.

“The Blue Flower” is likely to attract detractors; those who don’t fall under its spell or aren’t in the mood will likely grow impatient. But the Bauers have created a musical theater piece as rare and provocative as a blue flower.

The Blue Flower

Second Stage; 296 seats; $80 top

Production: A Second Stage presentation of a musical in two acts by Jim Bauer and Ruth Bauer. Directed by Will Pomerantz, choreographed by Chase Brock.

Creative: Sets, Beowulf Boritt; costumes, Ann Hould-Ward; lighting, Donald Holder; sound, Dan Moses Schreier; videography, Jim and Ruth Bauer; music director, Dominick Amendum; orchestrations, Jim Bauer; production stage manager, Diane DiVita. Opened, Nov. 9, reviewed Nov. 6, 2011. Runs through Nov. 27. Running time: 2 HOURS, 15 MIN.

Cast: Franz - Sebastian Arcelus
Max - Marc Kudisch
Hannah - Meghan McGeary
Mr. O - Graham Rowat
Maria - Teal WicksWith: Joseph Medeiros, Julia Osborne, Aaron Serotsky.

More Legit

  • CAROL CHANNING HERSCHFELD. Actress Carol Channing

    Remembering Carol Channing: A Master of Channeling the Power of Personality

    There was only one Carol Channing, and her outsize personality was a source of delight to many fans — and imitators. Gerard Alessandrini’s stage spoof “Forbidden Broadway” had many incarnations over the years, including the 1994 edition when an audience member was selected every evening to come onstage and impersonate Carol Channing with the cast. [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda Among Celebrities Remembering Carol Channing

    Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Bernadette Peters are among the slew of celebrities taking to Twitter to pay tribute to late singer, comedienne and actress Carol Channing. Known for her starring roles in Broadway’s “Hello Dolly!” and “Gentleman Prefer Blondes,” the legend of the stage and screen died Tuesday at her home in Rancho Mirage, [...]

  • What the Constitution Means to Me

    Listen: How Things Got Scary in 'What the Constitution Means to Me'

    For a decade, writer-performer Heidi Schreck had wanted to write a play inspired by her experiences as a teen debater. But over the years the show started to develop into something both urgently political and deeply personal — and things got scary. In the Broadway-bound “What the Constitution Means to Me,” Schreck reimagines her speech-and-debate [...]

  • Carol Channing Dead

    Carol Channing, Star of Broadway's 'Hello, Dolly!' and 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,' Dies at 97

    Larger-than-life musical stage personality Carol Channing, who immortalized the characters of Lorelei Lee in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and Dolly Gallagher Levi in “Hello, Dolly!,” has died. She was 97. Channing died Tuesday of natural causes at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Her publicist B. Harlan Boll confirmed the news. He wrote, “It is with [...]

  • 'What the Constitution Means to Me'

    'What the Constitution Means to Me' Transfers to Broadway

    “What the Constitution Means to Me,” a buzzy Off-Broadway production that counts Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem among its fans, is making the move uptown. The play will come to Broadway this spring for a 12-week limited run at the Helen Hayes Theater. “What the Constitution Means to Me” is one part civics lesson, one [...]

  • Choir Boy review

    Broadway Review: 'Choir Boy'

    Honestly, I was afraid that “Choir Boy” — the sweetly exuberant account of a gifted prep school boy’s coming of age, written by “Moonlight” Oscar winner Tarell Alvin McCraney — would be swallowed up in a Broadway house, after winning us over in an Off Broadway staging in 2013.  But aside from the odd set [...]

  • Jason Robert Brown

    Listen: How Ariana Grande Got Jason Robert Brown to Madison Square Garden

    Broadway composer Jason Robert Brown never expected to find himself performing onstage at Madison Square Garden. But he did — thanks to his pal Ariana Grande. Brown met Grande before she was a superstar, when she was in the 2008 Broadway cast of his teen musical “13.” The two have kept in touch ever since [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content