FORT WORTH Broadway may be at its best when it is being bad.
That was the basic message carried by Bad Boys of Broadway in Concert, a revue built with songs composed for the heavy in the cast that opened at Casa Manana on Friday.
This evening of show tunes features four extremely talented singers with impressive resumes. John Cudia is a classic, square-jawed, leading man type with a vocal range wider than the Grand Canyon. Josh Tower has the sort of elastic, soulful pipes that works well in character roles. Jason Wooten is the rocker of the bunch, bringing the sharpest attack and often eschewing style in favor of volume. And Carmen Cusack, the female member of this “bad boys” show, trots out the sort of larger-than-life voice that can own a show.
The revue was developed by Casa executive producer Wally Jones, director Tim Bennett and music director W. Brent Sawyer. All of the numbers are well done. And, better still, they are not necessarily the usual suspects. We get plenty from household-name musicals ( Les Miz, Damn Yankees, Jekyll & Hyde). But the set list digs much deeper to mine gold in shows such as The Life, The Witches of Eastwick and Wonderland.
Among the standouts are Cudia’s fabulous reading of “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera (which he sang on Broadway a number of times) and Cusack’s powerhouse delivery of “Defying Gravity” from Wicked (a song she took on the road in the first national touring production of that enduring hit).
Most of the tunes are solos, but there are a few duets, trios and quartets, such as Tower and Wooten’s beautiful harmonizing on “In Lily’s Eyes” from The Secret Garden.
Driving the show along is a robust, 16-piece, on-stage band led from the piano by Sawyer.
Most aspects of the production sparkle, but there are some details that can be questioned.
It is performed in a single 90-minute act, which is usually a good idea. But this revue might actually benefit from an intermission. The singing is great, but since every tune is pretty much a showstopper, it can be numbing. A little break might make the second half feel a bit more special than it does.
While the show is highly commendable for keeping the shtick and banter between songs to a minimum, it could probably use a little more (or more effective) comic relief. A medley billed as “Songs We’ve Never Sung,” which requires the men to sing women’s numbers, goes on too long and doesn’t succeed.
The look of the show is enhanced by a thoughtful and creative lighting design by Samuel Rushen. But Tammy Spencer’s costumes are surprisingly drab. It is understood that the singers should be in black because they are bad, but that doesn’t mean the outfits have to be dull. And a major opportunity is missed by not putting Cusack in a different dress for each of her numbers. The single ensemble she sports suggests she is bad because she bores people to death with her clothes.
And, finally, this show will certainly test your tolerance for show tunes. It crams several decades of Broadway into a tidy, breathless package.
But if you are a major fan of the Great White Way, this revue offers the chance to hear show tunes both familiar and obscure played and sung like the end of the world is at hand. Because these singers aren’t really bad. They’re just scored that way.