Bloodsong of Love @ Ars Nova, New York

cast list
Katrina Rose Dideriksen, MK Lawson, Eric William Morris, Jeremy Morse, Lance Rubin, Jason Williams

directed by
John Simpkins
Hold on to your cowboy hats! In a similar vein as kitschy musicals like Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Toxic Avenger, Joe Iconis’s new spaghetti Western musical entitled Bloodsong of Love, now playing at Ars Nova , is a fun, frequently laugh-inducing new musical that seeks to bend the rules of musical theatre, injecting a healthy dose of metatheatrical winks and nudges into the artform in the hopes of underlining musical theatre’s hokier aspects with a degree of sitcom-style digestibility.

Featuring score and book by Iconis, the music in the show wouldn’t sound out-of-place somewhere between the country and pop-rock dials on a radio, infused with a hint of Broadway panache here and there to appease those hungry for the latest musical theatre show du jour.
The story is simple. A musician, called simply The Musician, finds a pretty fishmonger’s daughter, marries her, and then looses her to Lo Cocodrilo, the goatee-twisting villain of the piece. With the help of his lovable, stereotypical Mexican friend Banana, The Musician spends most of the musical on a quest to find his woman.

There’s a winning silliness to the show that never quite veers into tastelessness (as sometimes occurred in the similarly silly Toxic Avenger). However, occasionally – particularly in the second act – the show’s humor gives way to an uncharacteristic dose of earnestness that, within the context of the show, seems out of place and threatens the otherwise healthy pace of the show.

Where songs in the first act, like the rousing opening song, Outlaw, and the recurring anthem, Find The Bastard, succeed bring a rousing rock theatricality into play, supplemented by the comic number Turkey Leg (featuring the lyric “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the dick of the dog in the fight”), the second act experiences a lull as the Jason Robert Brown-style ballad Last On Land and the sentimentality of the recurring Friendship Song weigh the show down where an energetic climax should be approaching.

A uniformly excellent cast serves the material as well as is humanly possible. Eric William Morris wears his guitar well and carries the perfect throaty vocal timbre as The Musician. Jeremy Morse is gleefully maniacal as Lo Cocodrilo, camping it up and twisting his proverbial mustache at every turn of the ridiculous plot. Lance Rubin is likable as Banana, and the two supporting women, Katrina Rose Dideriksen and MK Lawson provide killer vocals and ample spunk to this dastardly band of outlaws.

The target audience for the show seems to be younger theatergoers with an affinity for the kind of jokes familiar on TV sketch comedy shows. A particularly funny bit involving a hitherto-unassuming treadmill built into the set as well as ample amounts of on-stage (and, well, on-audience) blood attest to this notion. But this can be both an asset and a drawback, as the show sets its tone early on as a rip-roaring, bloody musical extravaganza and occasionally loses itself as it attempts to turn its piecemeal story into something more than it is.

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