Douglas Mayo reviews Ernest Shackleton Loves Me, an Off-Broadway musical now streaming on BroadwayHD.
Ernest Shackleton Loves Me
Now streaming on BroadwayHD
Every now and again you take a risk on watching a show that on paper just shouldn’t be your thing. Sometimes you end up watching something you hate, sometimes you get the honour of watching one of those catastrophic shows that are the stuff of legend and sometimes, just sometimes you find a rare gem that opens your eyes to something new – Ernest Shackleton Loves Me is one of those rare gems!
So the synopsis of the show reads as follows:- “A wildly inventive musical adventure that tells the story of a sleep-deprived single mom who struggles to balance her family and career as a video game music composer. Late one night, while posting a dating video, she receives an unexpected response from the polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. Shipwrecked and stranded on an iceberg in the Antarctic, Shackleton reaches across space and time to share his heroic journey with her. Against all odds, they discover that their greatest inspiration lies within each other”.
Not normally something I’d jump at, but then I noticed that the book for the show had been written by Joe DiPietro whose work I’ve long been a fan of (The Toxic Avenger; F*cking Men; Love Me Tender; and I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change), so I decided to give it a go.
“Wildly inventive” is a bit of an understatement when it comes to describing this show. Lisa Peterson and David Horn have staged something that got me hooked from a few minutes in and once I allowed myself to accept the premise kept me entertained and even led to me go back for a second viewing.
Val Vigoda plays Kat the “sleep-deprived single mom”. Actor-musicians have become the norm over here but was Val achieves takes that to a whole new level. Wade McCollum as Ernest, could easily fall into the trap of being the joke of the production. He carefully uses humour to establish his reason d’etre in this production and from that delivers a riveting and moving performance. Vigoda and McCollum have amazing chemistry throughout the production, and through music and a vivid re-telling of Shackleton’s story, Vigoda’s character gets a dose of relationship self-realisation. Vigoda’s initial prickliness is in perfect contract to McCollum’s bombastic but genial hero.
Brendan Milburn (Book) and Val Vigoda (Lyrics) provide serviceable material throught the show. The songs in this musical are not belt out show tunes, but they are none the less imminently listenable and most importantly they compliment and service the story. What fascinated me throughout was Vigoda’s use of live-looping to create musical accompaniment.
Alexander V Nichols provides a stunning playground upon which this drama plays out. There’s not an inch of this playing space that is unused. It’s all brilliant lit by Jeffrey McRoberts. Chelsea Cook’s costumes work extremely well, especially with McCollum who also plays a few of the men in Kat’s life.
Ernest Shackleton Loves Me proved to be a real surprise find on BroadwayHD. It’s inspired me to not only read more on Shackleton but to take a few more risks when it comes to watching new musicals. Who can fault that?
PS. Wade McCollum is appearing in It Happened in Key West which opens at London’s Charing Cross Theatre in July. I’m looking forward to seeing more of what this actor has to offer based on his Shackleton.
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