From the moment the follow spot strikes her, Rosena M. Hill as Sarah evokes hurt and hope. Her emotive soprano marries the meaning of the lyric with the moving melody in "Am I Crazy?" She maintains power without overshadowing in duets like "An Unlikely Pair," sung with her much younger confidante Doby (Bryan Welnicki).
As Sarah's husband, Jason, Greg Stone's vocal talent is underused, but it resonates with understanding and ability in his duet "The Girl I Knew" with Rob Richardson as Petr Klimes, the toymaker of the 1940s. While Richardson's deep vocals fit his gentle-giant character, they often sound forced, especially next to Stone's more supported tenor. Newcomer Jessica Burrows impresses with her moving vocals and convincing desperation next to seasoned veteran Joan Barber's heart-wrenching portrayal of a former Nazi soldier quivering with shame.
Despite the production's dragging length—the show could have ended three times and some scenes need pruning—the cast breathes life into the compelling story and score, adeptly portraying multiple characters in multiple decades.
The ensemble masters Putnam's intricate harmonies and Edelson's intricate staging, which includes some puppet movement. If audiences can embrace the dark plot and the writers can pare down the length, perhaps "The Toymaker" will craft a musical success.
Presented by Bryan Putnam Ink as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival at the Theatre at St. Clement's, 423 W. 46th, NYC. Oct. 5–Oct. 18. Remaining performances: Sat., Oct. 17, 9 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 18, 4 p.m. (212) 352-3101, (866) 811-4111, or www.nymf.org.