by Diana Schwaeble
Murder Ballad, a rock opera, is the second production of Hoboken’s Vagabond Theatre, and worthy of the hype. It is a modern tale of love lost, found, and tested when Sara, (played by Danielle Gimbal) feels adrift in her marriage to Michael (played by Jason Pumarada) and looks up her old flame Tom (played by Jay Figueredo).
If you are used to regular musicals with emotional moments told through the songs and broken up with spoken dialogue, this production will surprise you. There are no spoken parts. The entire show is sung by the very talented cast. Melissa Rose Hirsch plays the part of the narrator – a little like “Our Town” but only sung – giving the audience key information and several of the shows funniest lines as she pokes fun at the other characters. The cast is small, but stellar. All four actors work beautifully off each other, giving nuanced performances while singing their hearts out.
Director Max Friedman did a tremendous job staging the musical. There are no set changes, just different placements of the actors around a very simple set that gives the audience a close view of all the drama unfolding around them. Musical Director David Maglione did a fantastic job with the score and the singers. There are no average singers, each has range, emotion, and a chance to show their chops.
While the story is familiar – who doesn’t know at least one about infidelity? – it has a modern twist with the woman as the cheater and the husband as the last to know. The audience is drawn in watching as Sara willingly wrecks her life for stolen moments of bliss while her dutiful husband Michael provides stability for their daughter Frankie. Even as it builds up to its inevitable conclusion of the lover’s being discovered, it doesn’t end quite as expected. No spoiler alerts here, except well, someone is going to die.
Adding to the drama, are the talented band members, including David Maglione (piano/guitar), Rich Campenella (guitar), Marzio Fulfaro (bass), and Ryan McBride (drums). Murder Ballad is an original production with book and lyrics by Julia Jordan, and music and lyrics by Julianna Nash.
The rock opera will be performed this weekend (Fri. & Sat.) at Willie McBride’s, 616 Grand Street. Tickets can be purchased online at VagabondOnStage.com or at the door. There is limited VIP seating, which includes table service, for $5 more. Regular tickets are $20 per person.
The show starts at 8 p.m. and doors open at 7:45 p.m. The shows runs 80 minutes with no intermission, but you won’t notice the time. The drama unfolds at a fast pace. For those who think you can only see great shows on Broadway, prepare to be amazed.