The lovable charade of inspired silliness called The New Jersey Trapezoid, now playing out its final week, could be subtitled How to Succeed in The Pirates of Penzance Without Really Trying. Tom Kleh's new musical of contemporary corporate bigwigs being transported to a Gilbert and Sullivan-ish pirate ship is still in its developing stages, but there are enough rollicking tunes, outlandish jokes and over-the-top performances to supply a jolly ol' two hours.
The title geometric shape in question is a four-pointed region of water off the Jersey coast where, just like the Bermuda Triangle (wink, wink!), many a sea-faring disappearance has taken place. After the executives of CalCorp open the show with a spirited chorus of "The Grand Entrance of Horace T. Calthrop" the self-same CEO surveys the beach front property where he plans to use some not-so-savory dealings to build a pirate-themed amusement park. An investigative reporter is discovered spying on their illegal activities and although the suits aren't initially impressed with his warnings of strange doings off the coast of Asbury Park, a swift change in the weather finds them all transported on board the not-so-good ship Scrumpy, which has been lost at sea since 1804.
The crew of the Scrumpy has been rather peeved that their ruthless captain, Tobias Quick ("He never pays his gambling debts, / He never plays with kids or pets, / His mother's birthday he forgets.") is lovesick for the unattainable Lady Everton and has taken to spending his days writing bad poetry. But when the 21st Century crew is brought on board the cap is immediately smitten with the reporter's girlfriend. Jealousy arises, business deals are made and everyone wonders exactly who is "The Stranger Dressed in Black".
Director Jeff Edgarton keeps his exuberant cast barreling through Kleh's text, which is loaded with one-liners and groaners such as:
"Are you in a relationship?"
"No, I'm on a pirate ship."
"How many people work for your company?"
"About half of them."
"Me wife and I lived in contentment for many years... then we met."
But the spirit of the show is so fun and goofy, you'll probably wind up laughing anyway.
The score takes plenty of inspiration from Gilbert and Sullivan, but frequently ventures out into jazzier riffs and traditional showtunes. The peppy love song "You Are New Jersey to Me" is so out of place that it seems like a parody of the type of song you'd see forced into a show in an attempt to come up with a hit tune. But who's gonna complain with couplets like "You're bright as Atlantic City's neon lights, / As wild as the Meadowlands on Friday nights."?
Edgerton also choreographed and although the dancing is mostly basic, he does come up with many humorously staged bits. The one big, breakout dance number comes late in Act II and "Learn to Use the Pen and Not the Sword" gives the pirates and execs and chance to tear up the floor.
As the swashbuckling, though slightly bumbling, captain, David Weitzer seems to have been injected with Kevin Kline hormones. But although the character is a familiar type, Weitzer's gusto and comic timing is a pleasure to watch. Other standouts in the cast include Jeanne Tinker as a button-down corporate climber with a sassy wild side and Logan Lipton in an odd sorta turn as a young pirate with a strange psychological response to the mere mention of the word "egg".
The main romantic plot is a bit underdeveloped and perhaps not even necessary, but though the "serious" scenes do drag the show down, something silly and bombastic is never far behind. This is one to watch for in the future, but even now a trip to The New Jersey Trapezoid is a laugh-filled shipload of merriment.
Photos by Lois Greenfield
Top: (l to r) Erin Williams, David Weitzer, Rachael Bell
Center: (l to r) David Weitzer, Rachael Bell, Jamaal Wilson
Bottom: (l to r) Jamaal Wilson, Alberto Jose Fernandez, Edward Anthony
For more information visit newjerseytrapezoid.com
For more from Michael Dale visit dry2olives.com