Sometime last year, Mrs. Devereaux told me about The Secret City, best described as an art church (their tagline is “we worship art”). Her friend was in the chorus and I attended two performances in early spring (which I reviewed here and here). I was fascinated. All sorts of art were showcased – performance, visual, aural – and the arts community was celebrated. Each performance had a different theme. One of the highlights was the leader’s storytelling. Chris Wells can take the simplest story and turn it into one of the most hilarious and heartfelt stories you’ve ever heard. After their summer break, I decided I wanted to be part of this community and I joined the chorus, which I’ve enjoyed very much. I’ve been part of three performances so far.
Dixon Place is the home of Wells’ latest work, It Will All Work Out. Before you read any further, I urge you to buy tickets for the last weekend (April 28 and 29). The show is more than Wells telling his stories. Yes, there are the stories. But there are also songs and fabulous outfits. I’d only heard one of the stories before (which was edited for the show) but it was just as funny and sweet as the first time I’d heard it. Sometimes I looked over at the band as Wells was telling a story and I could see them smiling and laughing. Knowing that they must have heard these stories many times but still find them amusing is a great review.
The show opens with Wells singing his original “Hello New York” with Susan Hwang, Janelle Lawrence, and Juliet Garrett providing backing vocals and back-up dancing. Hwang, Lawrence, and Garrett played parts in some of the stories, Garrett played piano, and Hwang played the accordion, in addition to their singing and dancing. Eric Powell Holm had a small part as a landlord but he made the most of being the crew when he set up a mic stand and music stand.
Wells tells stories about the first time he auditioned (and not knowing anything about auditioning) for community theater when he was a teenager; dressing as a Bond girl for a themed shower and his car breaking down, meeting someone at the shower, and going on a date with him; getting his first apartment in NYC; working a tedious job at a law firm; and going to a Korean spa. One of the stories – about being an exchange student and his relationship with the teenage son – is told entirely in song. All the original music was written by Jeremy Bass (acoustic and electric guitar) and Wells wrote the lyrics. Also in the band is Marlon Cherry (percussion) and Jennifer Maidman (electric bass). All are excellent musicians and add so much to the stories.
There is a costume change for each story and Denise D’Onofrio and Estyn Hulbert create fabulous costumes – each one better than the one before. Director Eliza Laytner kept the show moving along and it was a delight to see the stories opened up with song, dance, and just Wells moving around the stage. Elliot Peterson did a wonderful job with the choreography and Noelia Mann’s scenic design consisted of a patchwork curtain that served as a backdrop or an apartment building. Rob Lariviere provided excellent lighting design and the sound was excellent also. Dixon Place is a small space so sometimes Wells spoke without a mic – one time even speaking from the balcony – but used the mic for singing.
I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed this show and how much it deserves a longer run. It’s a love song to art and the artist, taking chances, and, in a way, to NYC.
By Carene Lydia Lopez