Wednesday, October 01, 2014

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NY1 Theater Review: 'Atomic'

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A new historically based musical called "Atomic" is about a project that changed the world forever. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

The atomic bomb is no laughing matter, and neither is it something to sing about, but the creators of "Atomic: The Musical" managed to insert both humor and music in their ambitious misfire detailing America's race to build the A-Bomb.

The familiar names are there: J. Robert Oppenheimer, dubbed "the father of the atomic bomb," and fellow physicists Enrico Fermi, Edward Teller and a man you might not recognize, Leo Szilard. He is the protagonist here, and someone that we should know because he was the initial brains behind the bomb and pushed to create the Manhattan Project to build it.

The music, composed by Philip Foxman, who co-wrote lyrics along with bookwriters Danny Ginges and Gregory Bonsignore, is a rousing mix of soulful ballads and rock tunes.

The songs gamely attempt to flesh out this fascinating chapter in history, though the narrative is more textbook than dramatic.

Oppenheimer's surly testimony to Congress serves as narration, but there's virtually nothing of his exact role in the bomb's creation. Euan Morton fills in a lot of gaps with his excellent performance, but the character is largely misused.

Jonathan Hammond, a fine actor, is saddled with the comic relief as the Italian Fermi with an amusing but stereotyping song about his amorous passions.

And Jeremy Kushnier as Szilard, the workaholic genius, adored by his neglected wife and overshadowed by his larger-than-life colleagues, nails the difficult role with dignity and a huge conscience.

The show works best in moments of introspection. Szilard never wanted to drop the bomb. He had always hoped to win the arms race and use it as a deterrent to end the war. But of course, things turned out much differently, and it haunted him the rest of his life.

Like the saga of the bomb itself, the musical's intentions are noble, but even with all that talent, the "Atomic" company isn't getting quite the bang they hoped for.

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