REVIEW WRITTEN BY CHERYL THORNBURG
There’s killer theater just a short drive from Reading and Pottstown by Birdsboro’s 1st Street Players. The current production, “Murder Ballad,” is a 2013 off-Broadway production that is really a rock opera.
With its non-stop, hard-hitting and sometimes gut-wrenching numbers, this show is an emotional and vocal challenge for the cast – and they deliver.
It tells the tale of a deadly love triangle as Sara, an uptown girl, is caught between Tom, her bad-boy ex, and Michael, her dependable husband.
The regional premiere of this show is directed by Melissa Kauffman who also plays Sara.
Kauffman has choreographed many previous shows, and that talent shows in the staging of this production as scenes flow seamlessly from one to the next.
This time, however, Kauffman also gets to show off her considerable acting and vocal skills as she creates a vulnerable and passionate Sara. Particularly memorable are scenes and duets with Jonathan A. Browning as Tom, her former lover who wants her back.
Area theater fans will be happy to see Browning back on stage after he suffered debilitating injuries in a car accident. His powerful voice and charisma are perfect for the edgy and dangerous Tom. His duets with Kauffman – “Mouth Tattoo,” “My Name” and “You Belong to Me,” are memorable and his solo number, “I’ll Be There,” is a highpoint of the show.
Playing Sara’s reliable husband is Scott Troutman, who provides the perfect contrast to Tom. Troutman’s Michael is quieter, soothing, giving Sara a sense of security. That soothing quality is reflected in his duet with Kauffman, “Troubled Mind/Promises.”
Setting the tone and tying it all together is Jessica Pennington as the narrator whose numerous numbers move the action forward. Her character is not a behind the scenes narrator, but a sexy bartender who interacts with all the characters. Most of her numbers are called “Narrator 1 to11,” but her “Crying Scene” is particularly moving.
The setting – a bar in present-day New York City – presented The Players the opportunity to do something different with this production. Some of the audience is actually seated at tables on the stage, surrounded by the action. This makes the already intimate theater even more up-close-and-personal.
Also on stage are the musicians, who often are hidden behind the scenes. The rockin’ band includes Nathan Patton, Jim Kauffman, Austin Harak, Tim Tarado and Matt Shirk.
Nathan Patton is the music director and the show is stage managed by William Eschbach.
To add to the cabaret atmosphere, KOG Hill Winery will be on hand for wine tastings at the shows.
IF YOU GO
“Murder Ballad” continues May 13 and 14 at 8 p.m. at Birdsboro Community Theater, 301 E. 1st St. in Birdsboro. Tickets are $22. This show is Rated PG-13 due to strong language and sexual themes. Call 610-404-8436 to reserve seats. For more information, go to www.1ststreetplayers.com or email:email@example.com.