Murder Ballad presented by Bailiwick Chicago at Collaboraction. Conceived by with book and lyrics by Julia Jordan. Music and lyrics by Juliana Nash. Directed & Choreographed by James Beaudry. Runtime 75 minutes with no intermission.
Bailiwick Chicago closes out their 2014-2015 season with the Chicago premiere of Murder Ballad following a sold out Off-Broadway run. Murder Ballad tells a cautionary tale of a love triangle gone horribly wrong focusing on Sara (Amanda Horvath) who lives on the upper west side of Manhattan with her husband Michael (Matt W. Miles) but is confronted by her former downtown past and the rekindling of a romance with her ex bad boy lover Tom (Chris Logan). And as the Narrator (Camille Robinson) in the opening number warns us “someone has to die”.
From the minute you walk into the space you are instantly transported to the King’s Club in downtown Manhattan. Director James Beaudry along with his design team have created an engaging and edgy immersive world that throws us right into Sara’s universe. Mr. Beaudry has guided these 4 strong performers in grounding and humanizing a life that all audiences should be able to relate to.
Amanda Horvath oozes sex appeal, delivers powerhouse vocals, and shows vulnerability in its truest form as Sara, the central figure of the love triangle. “Mouth Tattoo” her duet with her former lover Tom (Chris Logan) is filled with harmonic excellence and all the belting one hopes for in a Rock ‘N’ Roll show. Miss Horvath has burst into the Chicago theatre scene as a strong leading lady and her notoriety should deservedly grow from here.
Chris Logan is dangerously likeable as Tom. Mr. Logan fully embraces his bad boy persona and his charisma manages to win us over despite his obsession and the threat he possesses. He is a true rock star with devilish good looks and a gravely tenor voice that electrifies.
Our Narrator, Camille Robinson, has a voice piercing with crystal clarity. Miss Robinson is a strong story teller with a couple tricks up her sleeve and is always one step ahead of the audience. Matt. W. Miles fills out the cast as Sara’s uptight husband Michael. Mr. Miles never quite matches the vocal prowess or likability of his competitor for his Wife’s affections but turns in a comparable performance. He serves as a strong foil for Miss Horvath.
The scenic design by Megan Truscott is incredibly detailed stocked with a fully functioning bar and the ruins of Sara’s former life. From our surroundings it feels evident that Sara never truly escapes her past. The sound design (Patrick Bley) in such a small space does present trouble at times. There isn’t an equal balance and the music over powers the singers slightly. That said, the harmonies from the singers are thrilling and that is due to excellent musical direction by Nicholas Davio.
The material itself is more internal and not as active which may bother musical theatre “purists” and the story may be along the lines of a plot we’ve seen before but these actors are giving superb performances. If you want to listen to the “Murder Ballad” at any point in your life time this is the production to see. Bailiwick Chicago has once again fulfilled their unintentional niche of taking flawed material from New York, rediscovering the truth inside and surpassing the show’s predecessors in another superior Chicago hit.
Murder Ballad runs through May 9th. Performances are Thursdays & Fridays at 8pm and Saturdays at 5:30 pm and 9pm. www.bailiwickchicago.com
Reviewed by Drew Shanahan