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Lydia and Tom Lights Up the Lerner Blackbox

Lydia and Tom, a Columbia University Performing Arts League special project, will be performed tonight at 8:30 pm and 10:30 pm in the Lerner Black Box theatre. Free tickets are available from the TIC. Last night, we sent Bwog musical theatre maven Kyra Bloom to review the student-written production.

Musical theatre is a uniquely specific art form.  The combination of acting, singing, and dancing makes it difficult to truly be good at; performers tend to be either actors or singers, and often, acting falls by the wayside to make room for more high belting, barrel turns, or special effects.  In an incredibly crafted piece, however, Solomon Hoffman, CC ’14, and Nick Parker, CC ’14, attempt to undo some of these tired traditions.  With a dancing counterpart for both of the lead actors, Lydia and Tom shows every side of the story.

One would be remiss not to note the troubles of the Lerner Blackbox right off the bat.  It is not, and never will be, conducive to musicals.  With that said, however, the Creative Team (led by Chris Silverberg, CC ’13) uses the space to the best of their ability.  The five-piece orchestra is neatly arranged at the back of the stage, appropriately so, because they are as much a part of the story as the performers.  The staging was nearly impeccable—no doubt a product of Silverberg’s strong experience and involvement over his years here.

Before the show even began, cheers erupted from each section of the audience as Solomon Hoffman took his seat at the piano.  He needs no introduction.  His talent is obvious, and what he has accomplished at this age is more than many of us ever will.  Hoffman easily incorporates the iPhone ringtone melody into a clever motif, and transforms the simple NBC notes into a song.  The more melodic songs were far more appreciated by the audience, and some numbers begged to end on a more powerful or energetic note.  Occasionally a lyric felt forced, but for the most part the text was clever and relevant.  Hoffman’s greatest strength is his orchestrations, and he does not fall short in his latest composition.  Special regards to Corinna Boylan CC ’15, whose cello playing melts the listener’s heart—though her beautiful bass lines can obviously be attributed to Hoffman’s writing as well.

The advantage of a new musical is that it can be molded to the talents of its cast.  Though each voice and timbre was completely different, the four singers sounded better together than one could have imagined.  Devin Lloyd, CC ’15, and Jonah Weinstein, CC ’16, though an unlikely pair on the surface, shared some very real moments throughout the show.  Lloyd has a great mixed voice and glides through difficult lines, flipping from chest to head voice with remarkable ease.  Weinstein has a magnetic presence; he is the character for whom we feel the most empathy because of his honesty onstage.  The plot is difficult to grasp at the beginning, with a relationship that picks up and rolls far too quickly, but about halfway through the first act everything becomes clear.  Lydia and Tom’s “will-they-won’t-they” situation is all-too-familiar to the college audience, easily pulling us in and forcing us to recall similar feelings in our own lives.

The small cast is completed with Skylar Gottlieb BC ’16 and Isaac Assor CC ’14 filling various quirky roles.  Young Gottlieb’s belt is sassy and strong, eliciting much excitement from the older members of the theatre community.  Assor diversifies each of his roles to the point that he really almost seems like multiple people.  His rich voice resonates well within the blackbox.  James Lasky, CC ’14, and Ashley Nagel, SEAS ’13, are simply beautiful.  At first, their dancing appeared crowded and almost frightening in the small space, but the audience quickly adjusted.  The choreography (by Adrianna Aguilar, BC ’13) was innovative and captivating.  Some of the most touching moments in the show occurred when the dancer character would interact with his or her actor counterpart.  All of the staging was artfully conceived—some of the best I’ve experienced in the Lerner Blackbox.

Though not without a few bumps along the way, Lydia and Tom truly is a commendable new musical.  Nothing is perfect at the beginning, but this student-written piece is much closer than many of us would have predicted.  The performers are talented, the music is grand—but what else could one expect from a Hoffman-Parker Production?

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  • Typo? says:

    @Typo? First line- “Lydia and Tom”, not “Lydia and Tim”

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous A wonderful review for an extremely impressive show. Please continue developing this!

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous It really was so good. Glad I got to see it. Hope students continue to take initiative like this.

  • KM says:

    @KM you do know that this whole show was solomon and adrianna’s idea, right? the way you stick her in parentheses after her dancers is a bit of a snub, since she was integral to the entire creative process. i loved the show and this review definitely does solomon and his musicians justice, but not including a fuller and more adequate acknowledgement of adrianna’s contribution to this work is disappointing.

    1. Kyra says:

      @Kyra Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Unfortunately, minus a short mention in the director’s notes, Adrianna perhaps has been under-discussed with regard to the creative process both in print and in discussion around the theatre community–it being referred to as “Solomon’s show” may be part of it. Her choreography and skill were clearly integral to the piece, and I certainly hope this review did not make her think her talent went unnoticed. Her choreography is exquisite and the idea is definitely something new and exciting in the world of performance.

      1. Um says:

        @Um Just because it is supposedly colloquially referred to as “Solomon’s Show” in the “theatre community”, and which, as a very active member of the theatre community, I have not heard, is no justification to discredit and undercut a huge investment and involvement in the performance. When the team was creating this project last year, it did appear to be something that Chris, Adrianna, and Solomon wanted to do as a group.

        Your intense and seemingly biased description of Solomon is unfortunate, because even though he is a talented composer, this is not his show, its their show, and the music was not perfect. And the music itself was a product of Solomon and Nick, not just Solomon.

        Side note: is anyone else uncomfortable with having a person who auditions for all of the shows write theatre reviews and reviews about her peers?

        1. Kyra says:

          @Kyra I, too, am uncomfortable with that fact. But it has been that way recently, because who is more interested in theatre than someone involved in it? Please step forward and contact me so we can discuss your concerns and any ideas you might have to fix what you currently disapprove of.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous If it was being referred to around campus falsely as “Solomon’s show”, it should have been Bwog’s job, in a review of the show itself, not of its reputation on campus, to correctly portray the way in which it was created. It began as a collaboration between Solomon and Adrianna, and therefore she was just as much of an integral part of the entire creative process.

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