Dynamite “Murder Ballad” at Detroit Public Theatre (review)


Four characters. One will be dead at the end of the show. Who is it, who did it, and why?

Detroit Public Theatre presents this terrific rock musical (by Julia Jordan and Juliana Nash) through this Sunday October 23rd. I saw it near the end of its run due to a little show I myself was rehearsing and opening the past month. I wish I had the chance to see it again. 80 minutes of love, passion, revenge, and a few surprises are in store at this intimate theater inside Orchestra Hall.

Arielle Crosby, Eric Gutman, Arianna Bergamaschi and Rusty Mewha (left to right in photo above) and a four piece onstage band under the excellent musical direction of Jamie Reed rock the heck out of the theater and leave the audience wanting more. Director Courtney Burkett’s beautiful direction leaves the audience in the midst of the action throughout, as our four characters tales interweave — and when you think you have it figured out, wait, you are in for another surprise.

Arielle Crosby has a superb voice and serves as the evening’s Narrator and her sly winks and nods bring an appropriate air of mystery to everything. Arianna Bergamaschi plays Sara – at first involved with hot and hunky bartender Tom (Rusty Mewha) and later the more stable and family-oriented Michael (Eric Gutman). Bergamaschi is simply superb as she weaves into, out of, and back into her men’s lives. Eric Gutman brings both strong vocals and acting to a demanding role that is at first very sweet – and later not so much. His ability to grow from one extreme to the other is remarkable. I’ve never seen Rusty Mewha rock-out the way he does here as Tom in an amazing acting turn – and it is so much fun to watch you almost forget who you are rooting for and who you are rooting against. What makes this piece so fun is that who you think does what changes with each subsequent scene. Remember — who gets killed, who did it, and why.

The entire show takes place in and around a downtown NYC bar, with hot stage design by Monika Essen. Costume designer Katherine Nelson has done a great job defining characters, not only by clothing style but by color. Choreographer Jill Dion provides some fun moves for the entire cast, and Cecilia Durbin’s lighting design is gorgeous.

If you get the chance this weekend get down to the DSO on Woodward and see Murder Ballad. You will kick yourself if you miss it. I am thrilled I got to see it, even if it was on its closing weekend. Professional musical theatre is alive and well in downtown Detroit. Bravo.

Very Highest Recommendation.

Murder Ballad continues in Detroit through Sunday Oct 23. Tickets at DetroitPublicTheatre.org

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