Kafka Metamorphosis the Musical

Kafka Metamorphosis The Musical. Courtesy 54Below
Kafka Metamorphosis The Musical. Courtesy 54Below

Kafka Metamorphosis the Musical is a concert reading of Matt Chiorini’s book turned musical at Feinstein’s 54 Below. The production cleverly blends several of the Czech writer Kafka’s works together in a rollercoaster ride presentation. Loosely based on both Kafka’s novella Metamorphosis and Letters to his Father. A very dark family story is woven that is every bit tragic as hilarious. A combination that keeps you listening intently to the lyrics and story line to catch all the nuanced levity.

“A first sign of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die.”—Franz Kafka (1883–1924)

This production uses puppets, instruments, and lighting techniques to sing and tell the tale. It starts with the birth of Gregor (Jack Rento) by his mother, Mrs. Samsa (Meghan Lees). The actual birthing is done by producing a puppet. We follow Gregor through his short life. Many similarities and inferences are made to Kafka’s own life throughout the musical.

Kafka died of tuberculosis at the age of 42 and most of his work was not published. He asked his friend Max Brod to destroy his work upon his death. Brod did not listen and instead, published most of Kafka’s work posthumously. This fact is central to the book and music Chiorini creates. The protagonist Gregor (Jack Rento) cannot be understood. No one listens to him. He tries to speak but his words are never heard by his family. He is invisible. This was true before Gregor’s metamorphosis and after. Gregor is ignored by the family and one night changes into a bug. After this, he speaks but it is unintelligible to anyone. What is the difference, they never understood him before.

Franz, our narrator (Jack Rento), has difficulty articulating his thoughts and prefers to sing instead to tell the story. Rento is the highlight of the musical, delivering witty lines with facial expressions and strong delivery. As he turns slowly into a bug, he says, “If someone is playing a prank, this is a very good one.” Referencing Helen Reddy’s 1971 hit, Gregor declares, “I am insect hear me roar.” The rest of the family cannot hear a word from their transformed member.

Gregor’s sister Greta (Morgan Smith) has some of the best lines as she portrays someone of less-than-average intelligence. As she mispronounces a Spanish word, she says, “I’m taking Spanish so I can visit Spanish someday.”

Building on the theme that no one listens to Gregor, he starts writing to his father. His father sadly never reads the letters. As Gregor understands his insignificance to his family, he stops eating to wither away and dies eventually. His father (Matt Chiorini) says, “Well, thanks be to God.”

As Kafka’s Metamorphosis continues to evolve go see it when available.  Knowledge of Kafka’s body of work is not necessary. The audience can feel the universal theme of being invisible and helpless and is impactful. 

The original cast CD was available for purchase. Songs featured are A Boy Named K, Samsa Mornings, and Dearest Father.

Kafka’s Metamorphosis: The Musical! – book, music, and lyrics by Matt Chiorini.

With – Jack Rento (Gregor), Meghan Lees (mother), Matt Chiorini (father, guitar), Morgan Smith (Greta)

Vocal arrangements/orchestrations, violin, and additional music and lyrics by Travis Newton; keyboards by Greg Giovanini.

Tickets & Info: (646) 476-3551. Runtime: 60 minutes with no intermission.

Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Within Earshot: Anthems for the In-Between, Flight by Mastervoices, and Love by Mastervoices, and Faith by MasterVoices.

Kafka Metamorphosis the Musical


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