Marisa Michelson may well be one of the most exciting composers working in musical theater today. New York magazine praised Tamar of the River, her last Off-Broadway work, calling it “one of the most extraordinary scores in years.”
After sitting through her latest project, One Thousand Nights and One Day, it is not unmerited praise. Michelson’s style is wholly unique and her style ignites listeners to sit up with curiosity and wonderment.
The same praise can’t be lavished onto Jason Grote’s well intended, but often preachy book and lyrics. This contemporary reassembly, based on Arabian Nights, forces us to rethink cultural stereotypes– specifically towards Middle Easterners.
Erin Ortman’s versatile cast assume multiple roles and the action jumps between Persia (which, we are told, is now Iran) and modern day New York City. Grote pokes fun at the fact that certain historical details must be explained, given that most of the audience are products of the American education system. Sadly, he’s not far from the truth.
Yet the impact is weakened, especially through his “kumbaya” ending and forced dialogue that aims for authenticity but frequently misses the mark.
What binds the show together is Michelson’s score, delivered with great conviction and , backed by equally terrific music direction by Kurt Crowley. For that alone, it’s worth the admission price.
One Thousand Nights and One Day. FINAL WEEKEND through April 29 @ A.R.T. New York Theatres. 502 West 52nd between 10th and 11th avenues. For more information click here.