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Off-Off-Broadway Review

Hurricane

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"Hurricane" tells the story of a brutal hurricane that ravaged New England on Sept. 21, 1938. The first act builds a connection between the audience and the people of a small Rhode Island town—a connection that becomes more intimate when the storm makes unexpected landfall in the second act and the town is thrown into crisis. The musical effectively conveys the profound emotion of the disaster and the mark it left on those who survived.

Michael Holland's score is a fascinating fusion of easy '30s ditties, sailor songs, and contemporary solos. The first full-cast song is a soaring, chilling number with undertones—reminiscent of "Ragtime"—that the audience not only hears on the way home but feels in its seats. The songs of a ghost chorus bear the influence of traditional sea shanties, adding authenticity.
 
Steven Booth is phenomenal as Charlie, a young meteorologist whose storm warnings are ignored by his defensive boss (T.J. Mannix). Booth sings with grace and emotion, moving from excitement to lamentation with agility as the plot unfolds. His early number dedicated to his profession is a notably modern tune, especially in the chorus, and Charlie has an earnest energy and enthusiasm, like a geekier Mark from "Rent."
 
Book writers Michael Holland and Eric Bernat impressively develop the characters. While some numbers initially seem out of place—such as a song by a children's bus driver (Steve Watts) about the "Boogey Man"—by the final curtain they fit: The bus driver is a war veteran whose battles have followed him home. His is but one of many stories that make us feel we're not just watching a show but becoming part of a community.
 
The 1938 hurricane is all but forgotten today, but this show shouldn't be. Hopefully, it will haunt audiences long after the New York Musical Theatre Festival has closed.
 

Presented by Kellner-Avery Production, Karen Mack/Miss Prim Records, and Casey McClellan as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival at the Theatre at St. Clement's, 423 W. 46th St., NYC. Sept. 28–Oct. 13. Remaining performances: Tue., Oct. 6, 5 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 9, 5 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 10, 9 p.m.; Tue., Oct. 13, 5 p.m. (866) 811-4111 or www.nymf.org. Casting by Stephanie Klapper Casting.

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