- CHARITY BENEFIT
Get on your phone and get those last tickets to “Himself and Nora,” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. You will be thanking me if you do. The last showing is Thursday at 1:00 and this show is worth it. First it is the historical story of James Joyce and Nora Barnacle, with book, music, and lyrics by the prolific Jonathan Brielle. The cast of just five performers has star in the making Jessica Burrows as Nora and the talented unused Matt Bogart. This biographical tale is a strong musical telling of the love life of James and Nora starting with their first meeting. Joyce is a struggling unappreciated writer and Nora a chambermaid. From that beginning, they are drawn to each other sexually in “Compatriots in Lust.” Joyce carries in him the Catholic Church, (Brian Sills) and out of rebellion refuses to marry Nora despite his love for her. Joyce puts on a self imposed exile and the two head to Europe. Broke, Joyce gives English lessons to the Italians, in the joyous number “River Liffey,” listing all the rivers of Ireland. As Joyce descends into drink and tries to write, Nora has two children, Giorgio and Lucia. Out of love she sends Joyce back to Ireland to re-connect with his family and he starts to write “Ulysses.” Ezra Pound (David Arthur who also plays Joyce’s Da) finds Harriet Weaver (J.B. Wing), who brings the Joyces to Paris and finally publishes Joyce’s work. As their children descend into madness, Joyce becomes egocentric. Refusing to marry Nora, she leaves and returns when Joyce, ill and saddened by the loss, finally offers marriage. Beginning and ending with Joyce’s wake, we return back to “River Liffey,” and the soul of Ireland.
Brielle’s anthems are infectious with stirring melodies. His lyrics capture moments of emotions and time seemingly long gone, as he uses drums to accent the passages. This is a score I want to own and one that will be played once released. Michael Bush’s direction is moving, loving as he keeps our interest. Matt Bogart draws us into Joyce’s life and we feel his every emotion as he gloriously sings the tough role. The find here is Jessica Burrows as Nora. This girl is a star in the making and has the it factor in spades along with talent and beauty. Her emotionally driven Nora is the key to this piece and she has us in her palms the entire way. Vocally, Ms. Burrow’s voice is flawless, as she works the vocal gymnastics of the role with Olympic gold winning style. In the supporting roles, Brian Sills is the perfect antagonist as the priest, David Arthur’s John Joyce is the perfect Irishman, and J.B. Wing takes on a variety of roles with nuance. Kudos to Stephanie Klapper’s casting, this was dead on perfection.
This show should move to Broadway as is, with not one change. It is a better Once.
Presented by Tritone Productions as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival at the Theatre at St. Clement’s, 423 W. 46th St., Last show Thu., July 19th at, 1 p.m. (212) 352-3101, (866) 811-4111, or www.nymf.org.