Reviews

A Clever New Twist of a Musical – Roger Gonzalez Localtheatreny.com

Mark Sickman’s new musical, Intruder, is a unique type of play, and one that stands out in what’s typically a theatre festival of works in various stages of development. From the simple, but effective sets (take a look at that photo), to the well thought out blocking, Intruder manages to pull you in with a story that at first seems unbelievable, but then creates layers upon layers of a beautifully crafted plot. The direction by Debra Whitfield is first rate. The actors, Robert Newman Newell Chancelor, Zoe Johnson Michelle Taylor, and Shabazz Green are outstanding, both in their acting as in their singing.

The premise is that Newell Chancellor is a world famous and revered composer of musical theatre who is at his home studio working with his assistant, Michelle, on the songs for his new production when an intruder (Shabazz Green as Wade) suddenly appears out of nowhere. Wade has managed to think about every possible obstacle an intruder would have, from handling nosey neighbors to taking care of Newell’s guard dog, amusingly named Andrew Lloyd Webber. The intruder at first wears a mask, but when he reveals his identity there is a shocked looked on each of the “victim’s” faces. Why?

As the story unfolds, and those layers begin to reveal just how complex this story really is, you can’t help but enjoy the journey. Along the way, Wade mocks, threatens, bullies, and eventually reveals that there is more to him than meets the eye. He sings (beautifully) and seems to have this uncanny ability with words and music that make him more than just some stereotypical thief. As Michelle, the lovely and talented Zoe Johnson plays a wide range of emotions, from fragile and victimized, to seemingly ruthless. As the supposed muse for Newell Chancellor, you can understand why he would fall for such a woman… and why it may come back to haunt him. As Chancellor, Newman plays the composer with great realism and somehow the trio make every moment, every segue to song, truly plausible and enjoyable. It’s not really a musical in the traditional sense, and that’s what works best. Director Debra Whitfield knocks it out of the park with great casting and direction. This is a very well put together evening of theatre by a talented production team.

After three performances, you won’t be able to see this play at the Winterfest festival this year, but I do hope they take it somewhere for another run. You can find more about this play and follow them on their site, www.intruderthemusical.com

Intruder grabs you, spins you around and roughs you up
Rod Carlson The Encore Review

We discerning devotees of the theater are usually satisfied when we see a first-rate musical or mystery or psychological thriller; but when a play is all that and more, we know we’ve experienced a whole new thing. What I’m talking about is Mark Sickman’s new play “Intruder the Musical.” It’s an explosive concoction of at least those three aforementioned genres, but maybe more. This show keep you guessing.

The action takes place in the drawing room of Newell Chandler, a revered composer of musical theater. His fame is exceeded only by his wealth. He lives in a colossal estate worthy of any Hitchcock or Agatha Christie mystery. The reigning doyen of the theater, Newell is no kid; but his talented, devoted and adoring assistant Michelle is. This gorgeous muse has it all, and their relationship raises serious questions along with eyebrows.

They’re isolated in the mansion. Michelle is at the piano, and Newell is pacing as they work out the bugs of what the musical world expects to be Newell’s greatest opus … when suddenly they’re confronted by a masked intruder. Threatening and brutal, this thug knows way too much about both of them. But now we suspect there’s more here than meets the eye. Now this play becomes more than a psycho-thriller.

The whole time and space continuum, and even reality itself, are in doubt. Is this intruder real or a figment of someone’s imagination? Is he from the past or the future? These are not academic questions; the intruder is behaving badly. To penetrate the mansion’s elaborate security defenses, he’s already killed Newell’s dog. Who’s next? He manhandles both Newell and Michelle. (The work of two theatrical fight directors, the brutality is shocking!)

Music plays multiple roles. More than Newell’s life and obsession, it also tells much of the story. With lyrics by the author and music by The Mystery Mountain Boys, the songs are varied; some are operatic, some a la Broadway and, surprisingly, even rap. Rich and lyrical, they are designed to reveal each character’s purpose and feeling. Murder may be just around the corner, but still there are laughs. There’s even a humorous homage to Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate.

The plaguing question is … what does this ruthless fiend want? Is he really going to kill Michelle and Newell? (Why doesn’t someone in the audience take their phone off mute and call 911?) What the hell is going on here? Meanwhile music is the real setting. The fourth character on stage is the piano that each of the characters play unless it plays by itself.

What’s this play about? More than the obvious, certainly. It’s about music, of course; but what about love? What about sex, what about Newell and Michelle? (Or is the intruder going to have his way with her?) Or is this play about money or fame? Or power and servitude? Or maybe freedom and self-expression? We just don’t know. It could be all of that; or maybe its essence is career, success and reputation? These days, I’d even bet on egomania or that old standby, narcissism. It’s all possible; and it’s all there, in living color, with a huge question mark.

And after this play grabs you and spins you around and roughs you up worse than the intruder does to Newell and Michelle, it drops you out at the feet of the actors taking their bows. And the best part is you know what you’ve seen, and what you didn’t see. But are you sure what really happened? That’s yours to ponder after you’ve left the theater, maybe for as long as you wonder what’s really important or what life is really all about. Until then you just keep your fingers crossed that you’ll run into more plays like Mark Sickman’s “Intruder the Musical.”

Duck! Here comes an exciting new theatrical buzz-bomb
Mel Glenn Brooklyn Theatre Observer

In a theater season replete with juke-box musicals and bland dramatic fare, it is refreshing and exciting to come across a new play that makes you ponder important questions of loyalty, deception and love. In Mark Sickman’s new play, “Intruder,” we find ourselves ducking a theatrical buzz-bomb and clinging to the edges of our seats.

An intruder enters the mansion of a revered composer and sets in motion a complex, but piercing inquiry into the nature of dual affections. The three talented actors, whether arguing, singing or fighting, ramp up the tension into a shocking finale.

Which one of the three main characters earns our loyalty? It is a constant toss-up as each of the three superb actors, Shabazz Green (Wade), Robert Newman (Newell), and Zoe Johnson (Michelle) vie for our affections. So riveting is the cast you are pulled to one side or the other, or the other in an ever-changing scenario.

In addition to being a taut dramatic thriller, the production features a haunting score, in a variety of musical genres, ably sung by all the principals.

Directed and choreographed by Debra Whitfield, “Intruder” is a play not to be missed, one that will have you thinking way past the fall of the final curtain.