By Kathy Carpenter
North Coast Repertory Theatre presents the West Coast Premiere of “Desperate Measures.” Shakespeare in the old west, in a musical. I reckon you’ll love Desperate Measures, it’s a real hoot. You’ll definitely leave with a smile on your face. Based on Shakespeare “Measure by Measure.” Books and Lyrics by Peter Kellogg, Music by David Friedman, directed by Christopher Williams. Fresh entertainment from an unexpected source. You don’t usually describe Shakespeare as fun.
Often times the Shakespearean language is difficult to follow with all the lyrical rhyming. This show takes the language to a more understandable fun level. Remaiining lyrical and with plenty of rhymes. The songs are especially amusing and delightful.
The plot, of which you might think under the circumstances as being slim, is actually filled with plenty of twists and turns. Johnny Blood, a cowboy, is in jail sentenced to death in a couple days. The sheriff, the hero, believes it was self defense. He intervenes on Johnny’s behalf to enlist Johnny’s sisters help in appealing to the governor, the villain. Johnny hasn’t seen his sister in years. His sister is a novice nun about to take her vows, and not to anxious to help Johnny, who she feels abandoned them. The sheriff is persuasive and she agrees to help. The other characters are Bella Rose, the saloon girl, Johnny killed for, and Father Morse. The story takes place in the old west, Arizona territory.
The acting is phenomenal. Each actor portraying their characters perfectly. The singing is amazing, whispered around me as how good their voices were. Definitely Broadway worthy. The Sheriff was played by Elijah Rock. He rocked his role with awesome, and his strong baritone voice melted away your cares. Jo Garcia-Reger plays Johnny’s sister, Susanna/sister Mary Jo. She had the best facial expressions. For this type of show you need this kind of over-the-top expression, Jo gave it in spades. The Governor Von Richterhenkenpflightgetruber, played by Rusty Ferracane, made a great villain. With plenty of shenanigans, he was the villain you love to hate. Johnny Blood, was played by Michael Louis Cusimano. A drool worthy performance, as the bad boy. Samantha Duval, played the pretty and perky saloon girl, She was adorable. I know not usually a words you might use for this type of character. But she was. Last but not least and one of my favorite characters, Rudy Martinez, as Father Morse/ Big Swede. He was wonderful. He could disappear into the background and you would forget about him, but then he would step into the spotlight and own the stage. A perfect cast.
In the time where video screens play a huge part to enhance your experience, NCR used theirs only before the show to show ads from the old west. Transporting us back to the era. For the show the stage was set with the governor’s office tucked to one stage right and the jail cell into stage left. The orchestra was downstage with a kind of wooden fence, with a string of laundry, in front of them. No video was used the perfect choice.
The music gave us a western flare,, and the lyrics of the songs were lively, silly and fun. My favorite number was “Just For You.” A romantic song between Bella and Johnny. The musical is a romantic comedy.
My favorite scene and maybe the best scene I’ve encountered of this type, was between the sheriff and Johnny. The clever banter of the alternative plan. They played their roles masterfully. Intuiting the double entendre of the incredible dialogue.
Desperate Measures is a true delight you won’t want to miss.
All Covid protocols still in place.
January 12, – February 12, 2022
North Coast Repertory Theatre
By Harold Pinter
March 2 -27, 2022
I love the expressions on sister Mary Jo.