The Connector

Scott Bakula and Ben Levi Ross in MCC Theater's 2024 production of THE CONNECTOR - Photo by Joan Marcus

NEW YORK – The Connector now at MCC Theatre

“The Connector” now at MCC Theatre is an innocuous bit of fluff that has great ambitions and little structure. What it does have is a spectacular cast who tell this tale with as much gusto as they can. That alone almost makes it worth the watch.

To begin with, Scott Bakula, as Conrad O’Brien, the editor of “The Connector Magazine,” shows up as an in-the-trenches worker bee with a more than adequate voice. The story is of an independent magazine back in the day when we still had publications on which folks relied. Specifically 1995-1997. “The Connector” is celebrating 50 years of telling the truth with a capital “T.” The future, however, is sailing up the river, and journalism is feeling the tide shifting. Enter Ethan Dobson (Ben Levi Ross), who is a fresh voice and a student of journalism. He knows who wrote what and when. His respect borders on being way over the top from the get-go. O’Brien, however, is smitten and looks upon Dobson as the very thing that might save the magazine from ending up as collateral damage to the brewing social media storm.



It is not long before Dobson writes a potentially libelous article about a local mayor who has a bad reputation but so far has escaped being nailed by actual proof. When pressed about his source, Dobson not only swears it is legit but admits to having physical evidence. We, the audience, see that his story is made out of whole cloth. The execs press him but choose to support him as soon as he promises – several times – that he has the goods. PS he does not.

The canaries in the coal mine, Robin Martinez (the understudy and rock-solid Ashley Pérez Flanagan) and Muriel (Jessica Molaskey), the resident fact checker, cannot help but notice Dobson’s bravado, and it does not wash. Something is rotten in Denmark, and they will not let it go. Not out of spite but out of commitment to their work. And the truth. More than once, we hear “the truth” being bandied about as a motto – truth rhymes with sleuth, and these two are on it.

The third member of the Trinity is one Mona Bland (Mylinda Hull), whose brilliant attention to journalistic details is in the stratosphere. We first meet her as she corrects one writer who referred to seesaws in the park as being navy when they were clearly cerulean. As the story unravels, it is Mona’s letters (she signs them “Especially Yours”) that have the crystal-clear tone of the mythical boy who saw that the king had no clothes.

All around Mona people are being seduced and distracted by Dobson until the story builds into a frenzy of one song after another. Eventually, it all comes crumbling down, and we are left to wonder why it took everyone so long. Once we see that Dobson is a fraud – and we see it early on – the story has nowhere to go. The creative team on this has been collaborating for years and years. One wonders how it is that they got so lost in the weeds.

As I said this is a tremendous, if underused, cast. One member of the chorus had three lines and spent the rest of the time sitting on the side of the set – along with most of the cast. Each was busy doing something that looked like more than just passing the time. And the featured actors who sang solos or duos – well, they deserve battle pay. The music and lyrics here are similar to the work of Adam Guettel in “Days of Wine and Roses.”  They are difficult to follow and lack the structure of most musical numbers. This makes “The Collector” more of an operetta than a musical. And a disappointing one at that.

“The Connectoris a book by Jonathan Marc Sherman, music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, conceived and directed by Daisy Prince, and choreographed by Karla Puno Garcia.



WITH Scott Bakula, Joanna Carpenter, Max Crumm , George Dvorsky, Ashley Pérez Flanagan, Danielle Lee Greaves, Mylinda Hull, Daniel Jenkins, Cedric Lamar, Jessica Molaskey, Fergie Philippe, Eliseo Román, Ben Levi Ross, Ann Sanders, Kyle Sherman, Michael Winther.

Scenic design by Beowulf Boritt, costume design by Márion Tálan de la Rosa, lighting design by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew, sound design by Jon Weston, orchestrations and arrangements by Jason Robert Brown. Tom Murray is the Music Director, and Kristy Norter is the Music Coordinator.

Through March 3, 2024, at MCC Theater’s Newman Mills Theater (511 W 52nd Street, New York. Tickets HERE.

Readers may also enjoy our reviews of I Love You So Much I Could DieOn Set with Theda BaraSweeney Todd, King LearThe Moment You Need,  Russian Troll FarmAberdeen at the SOHO PlayhouseThe Animal Kingdom, and The Days of Wine and Roses.

 


The Connector

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